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Industries & Professions /
Pulp and Paper
The pulp and paper industry can be divided into four main segments: pulp, recovered paper, graphic paper, and packaging. Pulp is produced from wood, and it is the cellulose fibers recovered from the tree. Pulp is the primary ingredient of most types of paper. Recovered paper is the waste or scraps leftover in the papermaking process, whether the scraps are paper or paperboard. Recovered paper can be recycled to create other types of paper. Graphic paper is the paper most people think of; it is used for writing and printing. Packaging is the paper used to create packages for products. In addition to these four segments, paper products also include paper plates, napkins, paper towels, bath and toilet tissue, and similar products.
Despite humankind's concerns about the environment—paper mills have a history of being leading polluters and deforesting the environment—and the increased usage of computers and the Internet, paper products are still everywhere in our world. From our cereal boxes to paper towels, envelopes, and bills, paper and pulp is still a large industry in the United States.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that about 69 million tons of paper and paperboard are produced each year in the country. More than 2 million books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published. According to a report published by First Research, paper still accounts for about 60 percent of revenue of the industry, with paperboard representing 35 percent and pulp accounting for the final 5 percent. Despite the prevalence and use of paper, however, the industry itself has been shrinking as people try to reduce their paper use, and as a result, their impact on the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), about 5,700 private establishments participated in the industry in the first quarter of 2012. By the fourth quarter of that year there were 5,665 establishments in the industry. However, the industry still has a significant impact on the economy. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the forest products industry accounts for approximately 4.5 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product and manufactures approximately $200 billion in products annually. It employs nearly 900,000 men and women (379,000 of these in the pulp and paper industry) and pays them $50 billion annually.
The first pulp derived paper was invented in China in 105 A.D. by Ts'ai Lun. He created it using fiber from mulberry trees. However, the use of this kind of paper didn't spread for nearly 2,000 years. It was a group of Arabs that created the first paper mill in 795 A.D. and the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-1400s made paper an essential product for Europeans.
In the early 1800s, Nicolas-Louis Robert invented a moving screen belt that enabled paper manufacturers to produce paper in one continuous sheet and in the mid- to late 1800s, producers began using wood fiber, such as groundwood and sulfite pulp, to make paper. While the technology for paper production has improved over the years, the basic process has not changed. What has changed is that much of the equipment used to manufacture paper is now controlled by computers, creating demand for programmers, and IT professionals. Other common jobs in the pulp and paper industry are several types of engineers, including chemical, process, mechanical, and electrical engineers. Laborers, supervisors, production managers, and machine operators are other common workers in the industry.