Everyday we use paper on a day to day basis whether it is a newspaper, a book, a receipt, toilet paper, etc how much do we actually know about it? Here are a collection of ten top facts about paper!
1. It’s nearly two thousand years old
Paper is thought to have been invented in China in the year 105AD by Cai Lun in the court of the Han Dynasty. Before then other materials were used.
Papyrus (from which paper takes its name) was used in ancient Egypt and animal skins were used to produce parchment and vellum in Europe.
2. It’s not all made from wood
Cai Lun’s paper was made from scraps of cloth and pieces of hemp material. Even today some paper is still made from cloth – the banknotes in your wallet are made cotton fiber meaning they are more durable than normal paper.
3. One tree can make a lot of paper
The majority of paper is made from wood, however. Obviously, as trees come in different sizes it’s difficult to tell exactly how many sheets of paper can be made from any single tree.
This article makes a brave attempt at some calculations though and comes to the conclusion that one pine tree can make just over 80000 sheets of photocopier paper.
4. What’s the difference?
In the UK (and indeed in most of the world) we use paper sizes based on the A-series.
This was developed in Germany in the 1920s and was adopted as an international standard in the 1970s. This system was never adopted in the US where instead they most commonly use Letter sized sheets of paper (215.9 x 279.4 mm compared to 210 x 297 mm for A4).
5. The bigger the better
According to Guinness World Records, the largest sheet of handmade paper was produced by Masaki Takahashi and Kazuki Maeda in Toyama Japan on 19th August 2009.
6. Return to the fold
Regardless of how big a piece of paper is there is a natural limit to how many times it can be folded in half. This is because with each fold the paper doubles in thickness and the sides become stronger.
For a long time it was thought that this limit meant that paper could only be folded in half seven times however in 2002, 17-year-old student Britney Gallivan proved that it was possible to fold paper in half eleven times.
This was then beaten in 2012 when a team of students from St Mark’s School in Massachusetts managed to make thirteen folds.
7. The art of paper-folding
Beyond the mathematics of paper-folding is art. Known as origami (from the Japanese words meaning ‘folding’ and kami meaning ‘paper’) this Japanese tradition was developed in the 17th century and became more popular in the rest of the word during the 1900s.
8. Paper aeroplanes
There can’t be anyone who at some point in their paper-folding life hasn’t made a paper aeroplane but some people are a little better at it than others.
In 2012 a new world record for distance was set by paper aeroplane thrower (and quarterback) Joe Ayoob using a plane designed by John Collins (AKA ‘ThePaperAirPlaneGuy’).
Ayoob beat the previous record of 63.19m by nearly 6m when his plane traveled 69.14m.
9. We use a lot of paper
Even if we don’t include the couple of sheets that may end up being turned into record-breaking paper airplanes we get through a lot of paper. The average office worker handles around 10 000 sheets of paper every year!
10. The importance of recycling
Considering how much paper we use every year the importance of recycling soon becomes clear. Around two-thirds of the paper we use gets recycled and recycling doesn’t only save trees – every tonne of paper that gets recycled saves 7000 gallons of water and produces 73% less air pollution than producing paper from new materials.
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