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Posts Tagged ‘paper

“Tossing away a piece of paper is clearly taboo”*…

 

paper

 

Today, in an age of computers, smartphones and e-books, you could be forgiven for predicting the demise of this ancient wonder material. But though there has been a small decline in the demand for so-called “graphic paper”, like newspapers and books, the paper industry is booming.

The world currently uses around 400 million tonnes of paper per year. And from money to cardboard boxes, to receipts, coffee cups, stick-on notes, baking paper, egg cartons, birthday cards, straws, wrapping paper, and, of course, papier-mâché, it’s hard to imagine modern life without it. We might be edging towards a cashless society, but the paperless society, as the American librarian Jesse Shera famously put it, “is about as plausible as the paperless bathroom”.

In fact, demand for paper is growing all over the world, and as we turn our backs on single-use plastic, paper is one of the main contenders to take its place. The last few years has seen numerous retailers announce that they are switching to paper bags, while paper-based chocolate wrappers, ready-meal trays and water bottles have also started to emerge.

In Canada, the government recently approved a ban on certain plastic items, while the EU has pledged to eradicate some of the most notorious by 2021. Some Indian states have gone further, ditching single-use plastic altogether. Many businesses have already announced that they will be replacing throw-away plastic items with paper versions.

But how sustainable is paper really? And what can be done to reduce its environmental impact?…

[Consider, among other factors, like deforestation…]

Almost every phase of paper manufacturing involves water. Scaled up to the magnitude of the industry today, a vast amount is required. To make just a single A4 sheet, you need between two and 13 litres. In China, which remains one of the leading players in the paper trade, the industry sucked up 3.35 billion tonnes (roughly three trillion litres) in 2014 – enough for about 37 billion baths.

After the pulping and bleaching is over, paper mills end up with water containing a cocktail of organic compounds, alkalis and bleach, which must be treated so that it can be disposed of safely. This can be a huge technical challenge, and some paper mills simply discharge the effluent straight into the local water supply, where it’s acutely toxic to fish and other wildlife  – even at concentrations of just 2%

For better and/or worse: “How paper is making a comeback.”

* Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

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As we muse on materials, we might recall that it was on this date in 1814 that London suffered “The Great Beer Flood Disaster” when the metal bands on an immense vat at Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery snapped, releasing a tidal wave of 3,555 barrels of Porter (571 tons– more than 1 million pints), which swept away the brewery walls, flooded nearby basements, and collapsed several adjacent tenements. While there were reports of over twenty fatalities resulting from poisoning by the porter fumes or alcohol coma, it appears that the death toll was 8, and those from the destruction caused by the huge wave of beer in the structures surrounding the brewery.

(The U.S. had its own vat mishap in 1919, when a Boston molasses plant suffered similarly-burst bands, creating a heavy wave of molasses moving at a speed of an estimated 35 mph; it killed 21 and injured 150.)

Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery

source

 

 

Written by LW

October 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The peppery-sweet perfume of pinks”*…

 

Think of the early American pencil industry as the Wild West of office supplies.

Starting in the 1820s, pencil manufacturers popped up across the United States in an effort to secure their own piece of a booming, million-dollar business—quickly followed by a flurry of innovations and inventions. “A lot of people were developing similar things from similar ideas in different places, not knowing that somebody else had already done it,” notes Caroline Weaver, owner of Manhattan pencil shop CW Pencil Enterprise. “There was an enormous amount of competition.”

Today’s office supply industry is not characterized by the same sort of frenzied lawlessness. But we still owe the look of our writing instruments to the marketing decisions of those early 19th- and 20th-century pencil mavericks trying to stand out from the crowd.

Take the eraser. In 1770, a British engineer named Edward Nairne produced the first eraser using a South American tree rubber known as caoutchouc. English chemist Joseph Priestley was quite impressed with the results, dubbing the substance “rubber” that same year, after its ability to rub out black marks from pencil lead…

Explore the aesthetics of eradication: “Why Erasers Are Pink.”

* Kate Atkinson

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As we reach for the rubber, we might might send a hand-made birthday card to William Joseph “Dard” Hunter; he was born on this date in 1883.  Active in the Arts and Crafts movement, he was an American authority on printing, paper, and papermaking, especially by hand, using the tools and craft of four centuries prior.  Hunter produced two hundred copies of his book Old Papermaking, preparing every aspect of the book himself: he wrote the text, designed and cast the type, did the typesetting, handmade the paper, and printed and bound the book.  A display at the Smithsonian Institution that appeared with his work read, “In the entire history of printing, these are the first books to have been made in their entirety by the labors of one man.” He later wrote Papermarking by Hand in America, a larger, but more conventional undertaking.

Dard Hunter’s self-portrait in watermark

source

 

Written by LW

November 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Being virtually killed by a virtual laser in a virtual space is just as effective as the real thing, because you are as dead as you think you are.”*…

 

Long before Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the paper peep show—a small, layered diorama that expands like an accordion to create the illusion of depth—was a way for audiences in the 19th century to peer into times and places beyond their own experience. A popular souvenir in their day, peep shows brought to life scenes of the completion of the Thames Tunnel and the Great Exhibition of 1851 to masquerade balls and theatrical stage sets. Now, they’re delightful pieces of ephemera from another time that suggest that desire for immersion in other worlds stretches back centuries…

Peep shows, also known as tunnel books, are widely considered to be the ancestors of animation and film. Peering through a peep show in the 21st century might as well be an analog version of virtual reality—one that transports you to a different time altogether…

Take a peek at “Paper Peep Shows Were The Virtual Reality Of The 19th Century.”

* Douglas Adams

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As we don the goggles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that Émile Cohl‘s Fantasmagorie was released.  Considered by film scholars to be the first animated cartoon, it had tremendous influence not only on the future of animation, but also on early nature films.

 

 

Written by LW

August 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Life is about using the whole box of crayons”*…

 

How Crayola Crayons Are Made

* RuPaul

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As we muse on Mango Tango, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that Frederick E. Blaisdell of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was granted U.S. patent No. 549,952 for a paper pencil, (self-sharpening pencils, on which the tip could be renewed by peeling away some of the paper barrel– the type better known as “china markers” today), as well as patent number 550,212 for a machine for manufacturing pencils.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

November 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

What’s Past is Prologue: The Future of the Book…

A guest post from Scenarios and Strategy (almanac entry added)…

“Special Glasses for Reading in Bed” source: Nationaal Archief

Much breath is being spent by the Chattering Classes predicting, debating, and otherwise worrying over the fates of the book, journalism, and publishing at large– broadly speaking: the creation, dissemination, storage, and use of knowledge itself.  Lots of jargon, a wealth of acronyms, and liberal use of facile analogies and constructs– it’s all a little dizzying.

Happily, Tim Carmody has ridden to the rescue. While he has mooted his own manifesto for the future of the book (eminently worth a read), his most recent contribution to the Science and Technology section of The Atlantic blog, is just what one needs in a Babel-like time such as this– some context.  In “10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books,” that’s precisely what he provides as he recounts, for example, the move from rolled scroll to folded codex, the replacement of papyrus by parchment (and then paper), the shift from vertical to horizontal writing/reading, back to vertical…

It’s fascinating; it’s illuminating… and it’s a terrifically useful reminder that writing, reading– communicating– and the forms in which they’re done have always been in flux: “10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books.”

As we pine for those iPads, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that radio station 8MK (later WBL, then WWJ) in Detroit became the first U.S. broadcaster to air regularly-scheduled newscasts.  The station, founded by the Scripps family and housed in their Detroit News headquarters, had gone on air 11 days earlier; then, after a period of testing, inaugurated its service with election returns.

Memoir of 8MK’s first employee (source)

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