Book paper represents a very small proportion of all the paper made. It requires a good deal of care and attention to make and as such is likely less profitable than other types of paper, though some mills continue to make it because it does command a bit of a price premium.

Now we all (mostly) have to separate our garbage for recycling we are getting a bit of an education is what is and is not paper. Milk cartons are obviously made of paper, but we in New York are instructed to recycle them with our plastics, presumably because of their coatings. Coffee filters are obviously paper, but we get to recycle them with our organics, like any food impregnated wrapping paper. Those transparent inner bags in cereal or cookie packages are made of paper. I’m always torn by those padded envelopes made of plastic bubble wrap covered in manilla paper: never know which way to jump. I believe that the disinfecting wipes we waft around constantly these days are also made of paper, though the company is reticent about this, even at the website SmartLabel Products on which you can search for ingredients not listed on a package. But I’m uncertain: for every disinfecting wipe I recycle as paper, there’s one I cast one into the general garbage.

So what sorts of paper are there?

Guarro Casas lists seven types of paper:

  • printing paper
  • coated paper
  • tissue paper
  • newsprint
  • cardboard
  • paperboard
  • fine art paper

Wikipedia has a slightly different seven

  • Printing papers of wide variety.
  • Wrapping papers for the protection of goods and merchandise. This includes wax and kraft papers.
  • Writing paper suitable for stationery requirements. This includes ledger, bank, and bond paper.
  • Blotting papers containing little or no size.
  • Drawing papers usually with rough surfaces used by artists and designers, including cartridge paper.
  • Handmade papers including most decorative papers, Ingres papers, Japanese paper and tissues, all characterized by lack of grain direction.
  • Specialty papers including cigarette paper, toilet tissue, and other industrial papers.

Sandpapers, lots of building materials made from paper, that sort of blown-together packing material you meet most often in egg cartons, and so on are probably all nestling under that “other industrial papers” phrase. Wallpaper may be less popular than it once was, but where does it fit? Paper Products lists lots of different paper types. J. H. Ainsworth in his Paper: The Fifth Wonder, 3rd edition 1967, provides this amazing list of the sizes in which different types of paper are supplied:

Ever heard of safety paper? — It’s a type of paper which, if you make an alteration to something written on it, will leave a noticeable smudge or discoloration. Railroad board may have little to do with Penn Station: it is apparently a board made with a newsprint center and a panel at each side of a white or colored paper. Superficially it looks little different from Construction Paper — which is so named for what reason?

Environmental Paper shows this breakdown of paper usage, based on information from Pulp and Paper International:

Global consumption of paper

That 26% used for printing includes of course all magazines, catalogs, advertising, envelopes etc. etc. which probably represent more than ⅔ of the amount, leaving a much thinner slice for books.

Per capita paper consumption by region

Paper is consumed unevenly, as this digram from environmental paper.org shows. Clearly we in USA have a lot to recycle, so keep up the good work.