Paper and plastics

Forest products like paper, paper packaging and dissolving pulp are sustainable, renewable alternatives to fossil fuel-derived products such as plastic. Discover how in this FAQ.

What's paper used for?

For centuries, paper has been used to inform and communicate. Despite modern information and communication technology, people are using more paper than ever before, particularly in the developed world. Other uses include packaging, cleaning and various industrial applications.

What's plastic used for?

As the most widely used material in the world, plastic is used in diverse applications including: packaging, clothing and industrial uses.

What's paper made from?

Essentially, paper is still made in the same way as it was originally in China in the first century. The Chinese used plant fibres such as tree bark, bits of rope, rags and worn-out fishing materials. These were pulped and then spread out as a thin layer over screens to dry. Today, the most common source of fibre used in papermaking is wood pulp from pulpwood trees. Plant fibres such as cotton, hemp, linen, rice and bagasse are also used.

What's plastic made from?

Initially, plastics were based on natural materials such as chewing gum, which led to the use of chemically modified natural materials such as natural rubber, and finally to entirely synthetic molecules such as epoxy, polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene. Today, most plastics are made from synthetic resins (polymers) through the industrial process of polymerisation, a chemical reaction in which two or more small, similar molecules are combined to make larger molecules.