Pulp and paper industry

The pulp and paper industry comprises companies that use wood as raw material and produce pulp, paper, paperboard, and other cellulose-based products.

Diagram showing the sections of the Fourdrinier machine
International Paper is the world's largest pulp and paper maker.
Paper mill Mondi in Ružomberok, Slovakia

Manufacturing process

The pulp is fed to a paper machine where it is formed as a paper web and the water is removed from it by pressing and drying.

Pressing the sheet removes the water by force. Once the water is forced from the sheet, a special kind of felt, which is not to be confused with the traditional one, is used to collect the water. Whereas, when making paper by hand, a blotter sheet is used instead.

Drying involves using air or heat to remove water from the paper sheets. In the earliest days of paper making, this was done by hanging the sheets like laundry. In more modern times, various forms of heated drying mechanisms are used. On the paper machine, the most common is the steam heated can dryer.

History of the paper industry

Papermaking as a craft is ancient, and for centuries it used various fibers, mainly grasses (cereal straws and others), or rags from old clothing made from them, in various preindustrial times and places. The commercial planting of domesticated mulberry trees to make pulp for papermaking is attested as early as the 6th century.[1] Due to advances in printing technology, the Chinese paper industry continued to grow under the Song dynasty to meet the rising demand for printed books. Demand for paper was also stimulated by the Song government, which needed a large supply of paper for printing paper money and exchange certificates.[2]

An example of an enterprising paper mill during the late phase of the preindustrial era is the mill by William Rittenhouse and sons at what is now preserved as Historic RittenhouseTown in Pennsylvania.

The first mechanised paper machine was installed at Frogmore Paper Mill, Apsley, Hertfordshire in 1803, followed by another in 1804.[3] The site operates currently as a museum.[4]

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the paper chemical technologies for making the pulp from wood rather than grasses underwent some major industrial-era upgrades, as first the soda pulping process and then the Kraft process helped reduce the unit cost of paper manufacture. This made paper newly abundant, and along with continual advancements in printing press technologies, as well as in transport technologies (for distribution), during these same centuries, led to greatly increased sales and circulation of newspapers, other periodicals, and books of every kind.

Environmental effects

The pulp and paper industry has been criticized by environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council for unsustainable deforestation and clearcutting of old-growth forest.[5] The industry trend is to expand globally to countries like Russia, China and Indonesia with low wages and low environmental oversight.[6] According to Greenpeace, farmers in Central America illegally rip up vast tracts of native forest for cattle and soybean production without any consequences,[7] and companies who buy timber from private land owners contribute to massive deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest.[8] On the other hand, the situation is quite different where forest growth has been on the increase for a number of years. It is estimated for instance that since 1990 forests have grown in Europe by 17 million hectares,[9] which has been supported through the practice of sustainable forest management by the industry. In Sweden, for every tree that is felled, two are planted.[10]

The pulp and paper industry consumes a significant amount of water and energy and produces wastewater with a high concentration of chemical oxygen demand (COD), among other contaminants.[11] Recent studies underline coagulation as an appropriate pre-treatment of pulp and paper industrial wastewater and as a cost-effective solution for the removal of COD and the reduction of pressures on the aquatic environment.[12]

Current production volumes and sales

The industry is dominated by North American (United States and Canada), northern European (Finland, Sweden, and North-West Russia) and East Asian countries (such as East Siberian Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea). Australasia and Brazil also have significant pulp and paper enterprises. The industry also has a significant presence in a number of European countries including Germany, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. The United States had been the world's leading producer of paper until it was overtaken by China in 2009.[13]

List of main countries by production quantity

According to data from Statista, China produced 110 million metric tons in 2018 followed by the US with 72 million.[14]

According to statistic data by RISI, main producing countries of paper and paperboard, not including pulp, in the world are as follows:[15]

CountryProduction in 2011
(1,000 ton)
Production in 2010
(1,000 ton)
1 China99,30024.9%192,599
2 United States75,08318.8%275,849
3 Japan26,6276.7%327,288
4 Germany22,6985.7%423,122
5 Canada12,1123.0%512,787
6 South Korea11,4922.9%811,120
7 Finland11,3292.8%611,789
8 Sweden11,2982.8%711,410
9 Brazil10,1592.5%109,796
10 Indonesia10,0352.5%99,951
 World Total398,975100.0% 394,244

List of main company groups by production quantity

The world's main paper and paperboard company groups are as follows. (Some figures are estimates.):[16]

RankCompany GroupCountryProduction in 2015
(1,000 ton)
Rank by Sales
1International Paper United States23,3151
2Nine Dragon Paper Holdings China12,63018
3WestRock United States12,4874
4UPM Finland9,7715
5Stora Enso Finland9,1888
6Oji Paper Company Japan9,1153
7Sappi South Africa7,30615
8Smurfit Kappa Ireland7,0009
9DS Smith United Kingdom6,80213
10Nippon Paper Japan6,54211

List by net sales

In 2008, the top 10 forest, paper and packaging products companies were, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers:[17]

RankCompanyCountry2008 Net Sales
2008 Net Income (Loss)
1International Paper United States24,829(1,282)
2Kimberly-Clark United States19,4151,690
3SCA Sweden16,965 (SEK)857
4Stora Enso Finland16,227(991)
5UPM Finland13,920(263)
6Oji Paper Japan12,788114
7Nippon Unipac Japan11,75355
8Smurfit Kappa Ireland10,390(73)
9Metsä Group Finland9,335(313)
10Mondi Group UK/ South Africa9,466(310)

Manufacturers and suppliers for the industry

Pulp & Paper Building, in Japan. It hosts many organizations in the pulp and paper industry.

Leading manufacturers of capital equipment with over $1 billion in annual revenue for the pulp and paper industry include:

See also


  1. Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin (1985), Paper and Printing, Science and Civilisation in China: Chemistry and Chemical Technology, vol. 5 Part 1, Cambridge University Press, p. 58
  2. Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin (1985), Paper and Printing, Science and Civilisation in China: Chemistry and Chemical Technology, vol. 5 Part 1, Cambridge University Press, p. 48
  3. Hills, Richard, "Papermaking in Britain 1488–1988", Athlone Press, 1988.
  4. "The Paper Trail at Frogmore Mill". Apsley Paper Trail charity. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  5. "NRDC: Paper Industry Laying Waste to North American Forests". www.nrdc.org. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  6. "A crumpling paper industry". Oregon Local News. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  7. "Amazon draught speeds up destruction The WE News Archives". www.thewe.cc. Archived from the original on 25 December 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  8. Phillips, Tom (20 May 2011). "Brazil forms 'crisis cabinet' following unexpected deforestation surge". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  9. "Forests — European Environment Agency". www.eea.europa.eu. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  10. "Will the EU turn the tide on forest growth and torpedo its bioeconomy agenda?". euractiv.com. 15 June 2017.
  11. Auer, Matthew R. (2018-12-18). "Toxic releases from an industry in decline: Environmental trends in Maine's pulp and paper sector". Environmental Quality Management. 28 (2): 31–38. doi:10.1002/tqem.21594. S2CID 116422861.
  12. Boguniewicz-Zablocka, Joanna; Klosok-Bazan, Iwona; Naddeo, Vincenzo; Mozejko, Clara A. (2019-09-26). "Cost-effective removal of COD in the pre-treatment of wastewater from the paper industry". Water Science and Technology. 81 (7): 1345–1353. doi:10.2166/wst.2019.328. ISSN 0273-1223. PMID 32616687.
  13. De Sisti, Mike (12 December 2012). "China's Paper Operation". Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  14. "Paper and cardboard production worldwide".
  15. "Japan in the World (according to the figure in Annual Review of Global Pulp and Paper Statistics by RISI)" (in Japanese). Japan Paper Association. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  16. "The PPI Top 100". RISI. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  17. "Global Forest, Paper & Packaging Industry Survey: 2009 Edition - Survey of 2008 Results" (PDF). PricewaterhouseCoopers. p. 12. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
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