Wherever you are in the world you’ll be surrounded by paper. Whether it’s 500 pages by your favourite author, or magazines on a shop shelf, paper plays a central and vital role within society. The canvas on which knowledge is passed down, paper is ubiquitous in offices, shops, universities, and homes. And long after our computers and phones have been consigned to the scrapheap, paper will live on spreading the word of our past and telling wild stories of our future. So read on to learn 36 facts about paper.
Fact 1: First off, what is paper? Paper is very thin material, usually made in sheets. The paper is made from plant materials such as wood or grass. This is then mixed with water and the resulting “pulp” is crushed into sheets, drained, dried, and then you have paper.
Fact 2: The main ingredient of paper is a substance called Cellulose fibres. These fibres are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and can be many thousands of molecules in length.
Fact 3: Paper is not a new invention. Most paper historians (Does such a person even exist?) Believe the first paper was created 1900 years ago in the year 105 A.D.
Fact 4: This 1900-year-old paper was created by those ingenious people over in China.
Fact 5: A man going by the name of Cai Lun created this “proto-paper” for use in a court in the Han Dynasty
Fact 6: Before paper, there were many other writing surfaces. One of which was papyrus. Papyrus is very similar to thick paper. But instead of being made from tree Cellulose, it’s made from the pith of the papyrus plant.
Fact 7: Paper gets its name from its predecessor, papyrus.
Fact 8: Another three types of proto-writing surfaces were parchment, vellum, and stone tablets. Both parchment and vellum were made from the hide of animals (Ewww!) and were widely used throughout middle-age Europe. Stone tablets, as the name suggests, were made out of flat chunks of stone and words were carved into them similar to tomb stones.
Fact 9: Not all paper is made from wood. Some paper, such as paper banknotes, and made from cotton. Yes, the same stuff as your t-shirt! The reason for this is that cotton makes a far more durable paper which is ideal for banknotes. Banknote paper needs to be more durable because banknotes are often folded thousands of times and stuffed into many hundreds of pockets in their lifetimes.
Fact 10: The process of making paper is called, uninspiringly, papermaking. Considering how many creative crafts paper can be used for, you’d think they would have come up with a better name!
Fact 11: The factories that make paper are called papermills.
Fact 12: The ancient Japanese art known as origami involves folding pieces of paper into different shapes and models. These shapes can be anything from animals and flowers to geometric models.
Fact 13: Paper is incredibly popular. So much so that we use 15 billion sheets every single hour. That number accounts for everything from toilet roll sheets to letter sheets.
Fact 14: See that single piece of A4 paper on your desk? Yeah, it took 10 Litres (L) of water to make that! That means a pack of 500 sheets of paper used 5000 L of water to make! For comparison, and average full bath can only hold around 300 L of water.
Fact 15: Around 600 million tons of paper are produced every year. That’s about 1200 tons of paper made every single minute!
Fact 16: In fact, by the time you finish reading this sentence, somewhere in the world, another 100 tons of paper will have been produced.
Fact 17: Over 40% of the physical waste produced by the USA is paper-based. That’s everything from newspapers to used toilet paper. Yuck!
Fact 18: Remember I said about 15 billion sheets of paper are used every hour? Well, that Number is expected to double to 30,000,000,000 pieces of paper by 2030. So much for the digital age.
Fact 19: Every year, over 2 billion books are made in the USA with each containing the equivalent, on average 200 sheets of paper.
Fact 20: And the USA’s love for paper doesn’t stop at books. Every year, 24 billion newspapers are printed. Most of which end up in landfills having never been read.
Fact 21: One average-sized Pine tree can produce 85,000 standard size sheets of paper.
Fact 22: If you stapled together, end to end, every piece of paper used in one day by American businesses the ensuing line of paper could stretch all the way to the moon, wrap around the back of it, and come back to earth.
Fact 23: I know plastic isn’t good for the environment. Plastic takes thousands of years to break down and decompose leaving plastic particles in our oceans. But did you know paper bags actually take twice the amount of energy to produce than plastic bags?
Fact 24: 24… That’s how many trees get saved for every ton of paper that is recycled.
Fact 25: 42% of all wood grown for harvest in the world becomes some form of paper.
Fact 26: GSM or grams per square metre is the universal measurement for the thickness of paper. Generally speaking, the higher the number the thicker and higher quality the paper is. For example, most low-cost printer paper is 80 GSM or lower. Whereas higher quality paper will be 100 to 120 GSM.
Fact 27: Ever noticed how paper comes in packs of 500 or 250 sheets? Well, these packs are actually called reams.
Fact 28: When I was a kid, I used to love making paper airplanes. But, sadly, I was not a very good airplane engineer: every one of my paper creations usually nosedived into the floor. But a man called John Collins thought he could do a slightly better job. And he did: John currently holds the world record for the longest distance covered by a paper plane. It’s soared an incredible 69.14 before coming in for a gentle landing.
Fact 29: Once upon a time, it was thought impossible to fold any piece of paper, regardless of its size, over on itself more than seven times. This is because as paper folds it gets thicker and the sides get stronger. However…
Fact 30: A plucky team of students from a Massachusetts school thought the seven fold limit was a load of rubbish. So, with a box of old clamps, they eventually folded a standard size piece of paper 13 times. They crushing the world record, and astonished scientists all over the world, in the process.
Fact 31: The standard size sheet in Europe and most of the world is A4 paper which is 210 mm times 297 mm. This gives a single sheet of A4 paper a total area of 6237 cm². However, the USA like to be a little different and have their own standard size called letter size. These American sheets are 215.9 mm x 279.4 mm which gives them an area of 6032.25 cm². This means the standard A4 size is slightly bigger.
Fact 32: The standard A-series of paper sizes: A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, and A7 were developed in Germany in the 1920s. It was eventually adopted as the international standard 50 years later I the 1970s.
Fact 33: China produces the most paper in the world and accounts for 25% of global paper production.
Fact 34: Industrial sized paper making machines produce huge sheets of paper. These machines a 2000 meters long 10-meter wide role of paper every single minute. That’s 2880 km of paper every single day. That’s over 1 million kilometers of paper in one year. Just from a single machine!
Fact 35: The largest sheet of paper ever created measured a colossal 15 meters x 9.75 meters. It was created by 250 students on August 15, 2015. I wonder what happened to the sheet after it was finished?
Fact 36: Bonus Fact! This article’s first draft was written with a fountain pen on, you guessed it, paper. The paper was lined 90 GSM paper and made by Hameline in the United Kingdom.