Ecology

What kinds of paper are used to make books

Paper is one of the most used materials for centuries and that, despite the fact that the digital age is changing customs and uses, it still constitutes one of the most common media for reading or printing. Paper was invented in China, around 200 BC. Later, it would reach Europe through the Arabs and eventually spread throughout the world, becoming the material that it is today. However, the way of making craft paper is far from the methods used today.

Cellulose is the basis of any paper

The basic material with which any type of paper is made is cellulose . Cellulose is a material that is obtained from plants (it is also present in some species of the protista kingdom). In this way, cellulose is a molecule present mainly in plants and that, when separated and isolated, a pulp is obtained that can be used to make different objects or more processed materials, including paper. Due to this, the largest amount of material that makes up any paper or cardboard is made of cellulose, including also the different papers that are used to make books .

Within plants, cellulose is a very abundant molecule. In fact, it constitutes the most abundant organic matter in terrestrial areas. This is because cellulose is one of the molecules that makes up the wall of plant cells. That is, it is present in a large amount in plants, since it is responsible for the protection and isolation of each of their cells.

However, although cellulose is the basis of any paper or cardboard , today, you can find papers of many types. This is because, although the base is cellulose , thanks to various substances and subsequent treatments, it is possible to give it a different finish depending on the case. An example of these treatments is found in paper whitening . Cellulose is not white, but rather grayish or brownish. To get it to take on the white color so characteristic of paper, various substances are used, including chlorine, especially a pollutant if it is released into the environment.

Likewise, it must also be taken into account that, when making books , there are many different types of paper, since each of them is better suited to the specific needs of each book. Some of the most common types of book-making paper include:

  • Offset paper: this is the standard white paper, it is one of the most common, since it is quite cheap to produce and is used in a general way for almost any type of book or binding.
  • Boned or ivory paper: it is a paper with certain yellowish touches and somewhat rougher to the touch. It is a paper that allows comfortable reading, so it is mainly used for printing literature books, such as stories, novels or poetry.
  • Coated paper: This type of paper has a glossier finish due to the use of color-fixing chemicals. In fact, it is the most used in books that are printed in full color or, even, for magazines.

There are many people who think that, as the great base of paper is cellulose, an organic and biodegradable molecule, paper does not pollute. This would be true if today’s paper were composed solely of this substance. However, the paper that is used today, both for making books and for magazines, brochures, folios, notebooks, some cardboard, and many other things, is made up of cellulose and dozens of synthetic chemicals that are the that give it the final finish. In addition, beyond the paper itself, the inksthat are used are composed in many cases of synthetic chemicals. In this way, if the paper decomposes in the environment, these synthetic chemical substances end up also dispersing in the environment, making it a type of polluting material despite its low resistance to degradation. In addition, the paper manufacturing process also involves environmental pollution (for example by the emission of gases).

Therefore, the correct thing to do when disposing of paper or cardboard is to deposit it in a paper recycling container (the blue ones). In this way, cellulose fibers can be decomposed in a controlled way and reused for the manufacture of new paper, so that potentially polluting waste is transformed into raw material that can be used again without the need to cut more trees to obtain virgin cellulose.

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