Is greaseproof paper biodegradable? (7 sources of paper)
 

In this article, it shall be explored whether greaseproof paper is biodegradable or not. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What is greaseproof paper?
  • What is a paper?
  • How is greaseproof paper made?
  • What are the applications of greaseproof paper?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Is greaseproof paper eco-friendly?
  • FAQs

Is greaseproof paper biodegradable?

Yes, greaseproof is biodegradable. Greaseproof paper is made from wood fibres (pulp) and therefore it can be degraded by microbes. It is mostly used in the UK and Australia. 

The primary function of greaseproof paper is to be used in cooking, baking and storage of food due to its non-absorbance of oils and greases.

What is greaseproof paper?

Greaseproof paper is a type of paper that is non-absorbent in its quality and is mostly used for baking purposes. The use of greaseproof paper is majorly linked with the UK and Australia. 

As it is not permeable to oil or grease its use is not only restricted to baking purposes. Rather, greaseproof paper can also be used for cooking purposes and packing of food. 

Greaseproof paper is just a type of paper that is peculiar because of its inertness to grease or oil and therefore is extensively associated with culinary use, especially in the UK and Australia. 

The grease or oil non-absorption make is an apt fit to be used and utilised in tasks that pivot around cooking and baking. However, it is seen that its use is not that accepted worldwide currently. Rather is only restricted to some countries such as the United Kingdom. 

What is a paper? (7 sources of paper) 

For a proper understanding of what greaseproof paper is, it is incumbent to know what a paper is in the first place and how it is manufactured. 

The materials used in the paper-making process and the approaches employed therein will help us determine what is the status of the paper and greaseproof paper in regard to biodegradability. 

Therefore, it is important to be introduced to the science, reality, and composition of paper and greaseproof paper before any stance could be established. 

In today’s time, it is almost impossible to not be associated with paper because paper has become a necessity in every household and every office. As if it were a metric of being educated let alone being human. 

Everyone uses hundreds of papers in his week or month. But have you ever wondered what is the story of this paper? Have you ever thought about the source of paper that you so carelessly use and which processes are employed in the paper-making process? 

Paper can be introduced as a dried and compressed mat of plant fibres. You read it right. The paper that everyone uses has its roots in plants and trees, in other words, forestry. The following are the common sources of paper:

  • Spruce
  • Pine
  • Larch
  • Hemlock
  • Eucalyptus
  • Aspen
  • Birch 

The idea of using paper or parchments has existed for a very long time (more than hundreds of years) because it is in the very conscience of man to read and write. The story of paper may have started from ancient civilisations like the Mayans or Greeks that used to draw on stone walls.

The Egyptian writings on papyrus are yet another example that proves how old the use of paper is. 

This proclivity to jot down or express remained, however, the medium kept on being defined and made better gradually. The end result is the white thin sheet of plant material that we use for a multitude of purposes. 

The chemistry and physics of paper are very much like that of clothes fibre, even the making process has very similar points. However, the paper-making process does not involve the weaving stage which is otherwise used to make clothes fibres. 

How is greaseproof paper made?

Greaseproof paper is made from unbleached paper with a protective barrier that is added for the repulsion of grease. Therefore, the grease non-absorbance comes from this extra protective barrier that is applied in the commercial paper-making process. 

There are several considerations and processes that are at play when it comes to the production of paper. 

First and foremost is the characterisation of the materials present in the wood. These are the bark, fibre and lignin. As expressed, paper is primarily produced by fibres, therefore, good paper making involves the efficient removal of bark and lignin. 

If the removal of bark and lignin is not done rightly, then it can reciprocate badly to the end result which is paper. As a result, paper may lose its utilitarian value. 

Generally, there are two approaches that may be employed for the removal of bark. These may be mechanical or chemical. As the name suggests, mechanical removal depends on mechanical force to remove bark from logs whereas chemical removal depends on chemicals. 

The paper produced after the mechanical removal of bark is termed groundwood paper while the product achieved after the chemical removal is called black liquor. While the former depends on force, the latter depends on temperature and chemicals. 

There are usually 3-4 steps that are adopted mechanically for the paper-making process. These processes may be: 

  • Wet end
  • Wet press section 
  • Dryer section 
  • Calender section 

The first process involves the mixing of paper with water and other fillers, as the name of the process also suggests. This is then followed by the wet press section where the pulp moves on a felt belt. 

The next step is the dryer section which dries the mixture from the pulp. At this stage, the pulp is very much in paper form. Lastly, we have calender section that is responsible for giving a smooth finish to the paper using pressure. 

You must be wondering where the protective layer is added in this whole process. As per the deliberations, the synthetic materials, coating and layers are added between the wet and dry processes of the paper-making process. 

As it can be seen, the paper-making process is energy-consumptive and there is high use of chemicals (to separate lignin and bark). Therefore, it is important that sustainability must be run through these processes otherwise, paper production will do more harm than good. 

What are the applications of greaseproof paper?

As it may be guessed from the name, greaseproof paper is known for its ability to deter grease. As a result, it is used in kitchen-related processes. 

Greaseproof paper may be used in the cooking, baking, and packing of food. The making of food is always associated with the use of oil. If the packing material or material in which food is kept absorbs oil, then it may result in the food taste and quality deterioration. 

This signifies the use and applications of greaseproof paper. It can be said that the use of greaseproof paper, in a way, is to ensure food safety and food preservation, which otherwise would result in food scarcity and unsustainable use of materials used to make food. 

What is biodegradability?

An understanding of biodegradability is important before advancing any further. Biodegradability is a process through which waste is broken down into simple materials which can become a part of nature again. 

It is nature’s way to make sure that there is no waste left and also that the resources are utilised in the best possible ways. 

If there is no waste then it means that what we consider as waste is actually not waste but food for other organisms. This makes sure that the resources of the earth, which are highly scarce given the immense population, are utilised in a cyclical and efficient way. 

However, as man has already caused enough commotion in many factors and aspects related to life, biology and chemistry; man has also managed to disrupt this cyclical sustainability which is practised by mother nature. 

Synthetic products and materials can not be degraded by the action of microbes because microbes are unable to break down the structure of man-made materials. Examples of these man-made materials may be:

  • Polymers 
  • Fertilisers
  • Pesticides
  • PVC
  • PET 
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Electronic waste
  • Synthetic fibres 
  • Synthetic resins 

This waste can not degrade and cause a lot of havoc in the environment and to life. These may include global warming, deforestation, greenhouse effect, loss of life, and destruction of habitat– to name a few. 

Is greaseproof paper biodegradable?

Since we have covered what biodegradability is and how greaseproof paper is made, it is very easy to build a stance on the biodegradability of greaseproof paper. It can be said that greaseproof paper is indeed biodegradable because it is made of natural materials. 

If a product is made from natural materials, it is prone to the degradative capacity of microbes and hence can be broken down into simpler materials so that they may become a part of nature again. 

Greaseproof paper is made from plant fibres that may be

  • Spruce
  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Larch
  • Hemlock
  • Eucalyptus
  • Aspen
  • Birch 

All these sources are naturally occurring and there is no amount of artificiality in these. Therefore, microbes can break down greaseproof paper readily without causing much harm to the environment. 

Is greaseproof paper good for the environment?

It is usually perceived that if something is biodegradable then it must be good for the environment. While this perception holds some truth, it is not necessary to be true all the time. 

Greaseproof paper is indeed biodegradable but the paper-making process uses a lot of energy and chemicals. The source of energy is mostly non-renewable which is linked to fossil fuels. Further, the use of chemicals may leech out to the environment causing toxicity and environmental degradation. 

Therefore, although greaseproof paper is biodegradable, for it to be eco-friendly it must be produced and used sustainably which is still uncovered as of now if we speak about the majority. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that greaseproof paper is made from wood fibres (pulp) and therefore it can be degraded by microbes. It is mostly used in the UK and Australia. 

The primary function of greaseproof paper is to be used in cooking, baking and storage of food due to its non-absorbance of oils and greases. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is greaseproof paper biodegradable?

Where is greaseproof paper used?

It is mostly used in the UK and Australia. 

How is greaseproof paper made?

It is made from unbleached paper while adding an extra protective layer to avert oil and grease.

Reference

  • Alava, M., & Niskanen, K. (2006). The physics of paper. Reports on progress in physics, 69(3), 669.
  • Kjellgren, H. (2005). Barrier properties of greaseproof paper(Doctoral dissertation, Institutionen för kemi).
  • Hubbe, M. A., & Pruszynski, P. (2020). Greaseproof paper products: A review emphasizing ecofriendly approaches. BioResources, 15(1), 1978-2004.
  • Casey, Ryan. (July 17, 2017). How is paper made? Retrieved from: https://www.caseyprinting.com/blog/how-is-paper-made

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