Newsprint


Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper consisting mainly of wood pulp and most commonly used to print newspapers and other publications and advertising material. Invented in 1844 by Charles Fenerty of Nova Scotia, Canada, it usually has an off white cast and distinctive feel. It is designed for use in printing presses that employ a long web of paper (web offset, letterpress and flexographic) rather than individual sheets of paper.  

The web of paper is placed on the printer, in the form of a roll of paper, from a paper mill (surplus newsprint can also be cut into individual sheets by a processor for use in a variety of other applications such as wrapping or commercial printing). World demand of newsprint in 2006 totaled about 37.2 million metric tonnes, according to the Montreal-based Pulp & Paper Products Council (PPPC). This was about 1.6% less than in 2000. Between 2000 and 2006, the biggest changes were in Asia—which saw newsprint demand grow by about 20%—and North America, where demand fell by about 25%. Demand in China virtually doubled during the period, to about 3.2 million metric tonnes.  

While demand has been trending down in North America in recent years, the rapid economic expansion of such Asian countries as China and India greatly benefited the print newspaper, and thus their newsprint suppliers. According to the World Association of Newspapers, in 2007 Asia was the home to 74 of the world's 100 highest-circulation dailies. With millions of Chinese and Indians entering the ranks of those with disposable income, newspapers have gained readers along with other news media.  

For the roughly 20% of demand which is not purchased by a daily newspaper, common end uses include the printing of weekly newspapers, advertising flyers and other printed products, generally by a commercial printer, a company whose business consists largely of printing products for other companies using its presses. In such a case, the newsprint may be purchased by the printer on behalf of an advertiser or a weekly newspaper publisher, or it may be purchased by the client and then ordered to be shipped to the printer's location.  

Another consideration in the newsprint business is delivery, which is affected by energy cost trends. Newsprint around the world may be delivered by rail or truck; or by barge, container or break-bulk shipment if a water delivery is appropriate. (Aside from delivery cost, another consideration in selecting freight mode may be the potential for avoiding damage to the product.) All things being equal, for domestic shipments in areas like North America or Europe where modern road and rail networks are readily available, trucks can be more economical than rail for short-haul deliveries (a day or less from the mill), while rail may be more economical for longer shipments. The cost-competitiveness of each freight mode for a specific mill's business may depend on local infrastructure issues, as well as the degree of truck-vs-freight competition in the mill's region. The appropriate freight mode for delivery from a mill to a specific pressroom can also depend on the press room ability to accept enough trucks or rail cars. 

Newsprint is generally made by a mechanical milling process, without the chemical processes that are often used to remove lignin from the pulp. The lignin causes the paper to become brittle and yellow when exposed to air or sunlight. Traditionally, newsprint was made from fibers extracted from various softwood species of trees (most commonly, spruce, fir, balsam fir or pine). However, an increasing percentage of the world's newsprint is made with recycled fibers.  

There are upper limits on the percentage of the world's newsprint that can be manufactured from recycled fiber. For instance, some of the fiber that enters a recycled pulp mill is lost in pulping, due to inefficiencies inherent in the process. According to the web site of the U.K. chapter of Friends of the Earth, wood fiber can normally only be recycled up to five times due to damage to the fiber. Thus, unless the quantity of newsprint used each year worldwide declines in line with the lost fiber, a certain amount of new (virgin) fiber is required each year globally, even though individual newsprint mills may use 100% recycled fiber.