Saturday 20 August 2016

Canadian Pulp & Paper Industry

Steps to making paper out of pulp:  1.  Harvest the trees.  2.  Cut into logs and take to the mill.  3.  Machinery turns the wood chips into pulp.  4.  Pulp is mixed with water and poured onto a long machine.  5.  The fibres bond to one another at the dry end of the machine.  6.  Researchers perform tests at each stage.  (Photo & Steps courtesy 

Egyptians made paper from papyrus, which serves as the root of the word.  Europeans used animal skins to make paper. The modern process of turning pulp into paper was first used by the Chinese.  By the 19th Century, with rising literacy rates and the proliferation of newspapers, a demand was created for a cheaper paper supply -- wood.  German paper makers developped machines to break down pulp to make paper.

The demand for paper in Canada grew as the population did.  First, Canadians imported it from the United States.  Later, the Canadian pulp and paper industry formed, based mainly in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.  Argenteuil paper factory, near present day Montreal, provided the newsprint for the Montreal Gazette.  Later the Canadian factories also provided book paper, printing paper, wallpaper and wrapping paper.

As the frontier moved westward, British Columbia also developped a pulp and paper industry.  In the meantime, the United States lifted its tariff on newsprint just before World War I and Canada "emerged as the world's preeminent newspaper maker".  While production sat at 65,000 tons in 1900, it grew by 65 times that within three decades.

In the mid-1920's the nature of the pulp and paper industry started to change:  once controlled by multiple family-owned enterprises it became dominated by a few "behemoths", requiring huge financial backing from the United States.  By the Great Depression, most of the Ontario mills and some of the Quebec mills declared bankruptcy.

With the advent of the Second World War, the pulp and paper industry made a come back, ushering in three and a half decades of prosperity in Canada.  Whereas production sat at 4.3 million tons in 1939, it quintupled by 1972, sitting at 23 million tons, almost a quarter of the world's capacity.

However, by 2000, with the rise of the Internet, came the fall of the newspaper industry.  Canadian paper mills lost the American market; at one point, a paper mill was closing every week.  Even so, today the pulp and paper industry remains at important part of Canada's economy.

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