How the vision of paper has changed

When the internet and email came along many commentators wrote to say that this was clearly the end of paper.  The paper-free office was considered to be just around the corner.

In fact what was just around the corner was the office packed with computers all linked to printers, all printing out more and more reports and analyses (which fewer and fewer people read or understood).  Far from being the end of paper, it looked as if the internet was breathing new demand for paper.

A 1999 report from the American Forest and Paper Association said that “between 1990 and 1998, annual paper consumption rose from 86.8 million tons to 99 million tons,”. They noted a growth in the amount of paper used in direct mail for example, and as recently as 2003 the Conference Board of Canada expressed high levels of optimism for its industry.

By 2005 however the outlook had changed and the industry in many countries was losing rather than making money.

There were two reasons.   First the demand for newsprint has gone down as a result of a decline in the number and circulation of newspapers.  While the major daily titles have remained, fringe newspapers, and regional newspapers have fallen by the wayside.  In the UK many will not have noticed the demise of the extremely downmarket Sport newspapers, but their decline was symptomatic of the problems in the industry.

Thus by 2007 reports were suggesting that the digital revolution was actually having the effect predicted in the 90s – the production of all types of paper was in decline except tissues.

But a more detailed analysis revealed it wasn’t just digital that was causing the problem.  Cheap imports from South America, Russia and China also had an impact on traditional industries, not least because China moved from being an importer of paper to being an exporter.

And in fact when looked at on a worldwide basis we can see that the paper industry is not shrinking at all – it is growing.  World Paper Markets 2020, now states that “world demand for paper and paperboard is forecast to grow by 2.1% annually in the long term.”

The change therefore is not the simple one of “digital revolution leads to decline in the use of paper” but rather there is a growth in paper use, combined with a demand for lower cost paper product and eco-friendly product.

In fact in 2007, Transcontinental announced a new paper made 100% from recycled material, at a price directly comparable with conventional paper.

And so despite every development and every change, paper use is growing.  Different types of paper, made in different countries, but still paper.


Which is why we exist – to store your paper.  The need for quality, safe storge of paper has never been greater and we are here to meet your every need.

There’s more information on our website or give us a call on 01922 632227.

Why does paper turn yellow – and what can you do about it?

Before writing my commentary today I thought I would have a brief look at what others have said in answer to this question.

Here’s one of the most amusing answers I found (it came from

“Because the light shines into the paper and turns it yellow”

Well, yes, up to a point I suppose that’s right – but it doesn’t really take me much closer to the “why?” in my question. Why does sunlight turn paper yellow?

The fact is that paper is made from wood which itself is made up of white cellulose plus a dark substance called lignin. It is the exposure of lignin to air and sunlight that turns paper yellow.

Lignin (sometimes written lignen – the word comes from “lignum” – the Latin for wood) makes up about 30% of the mass of wood. Its effect is to strengthen the wood so that it can more readily stand erect (somewhat akin to the function of concrete in buildings). If you want to be technical you might like to know that it is just about the most abundant organic polymer on the planet.

How yellow paper will get over time depends not only on how much sunlight it is exposed to, but also how much lignin is in the paper.  Newsprint, for example, goes yellow quickly because it is one of the cheaper forms of paper (generally intended to have a short lifespan).  So when produced the lignin is not separated out – which makes newsprint cheaper.

It doesn’t take much of an intellectual jump to realise at this point that cardboard is stiff because it has a high percentage of lignin in it.

At the other extreme, because pure cellulose is white, if the paper manufacturer puts the wood through a chemical solvent process to separate out the lignin, you will end up with white paper that will not yellow – or at least not easily and not for quite a long time.

So there are three factors: the quality of the paper, the sunlight and the air.

Storage in a dark dry space will certainly help reduce the level of yellowing quite considerably.

Which is where we come in – we offer document storage in the Midlands.

There’s more information on our website or give us a call on 01922 632227.