Is Paper Flammable – Surprising answer here

A lot of your vital documents and important books are on your shelves or anywhere in your room, and you think you might be at risk of losing them. Let’s look at if the paper is flammable.

Is paper flammable? 

YES. Paper is flammable and burns quickly. Countries with fire and building codes have marked paper as a flammable material. However, different pieces of paper might have distinct qualities. Therefore, the rate at which they burn differs from each other. 

It’s important to have a knowledge of what causes paper to burn. Also, you need to know about the distinct qualities of paper that you have around you.

This helps you in selecting your choice of paper and lessens/prevent the risk of losing your precious books/documents.

What causes paper to burn?

Paper is recognized as a material, thin sheet in nature, and is manufactured from cellulose fibers.

They got this cellulose fiber from different materials, including rags, woods, or other materials made of plants. The dried form of these materials is highly flammable.

But they do not directly make paper from these materials. These materials are subjected to different processes before the paper is finally obtained.

Papermaking Process

The first popular step in the production of paper is the cutting of logs of wood into chips. These logs of wood are obtained from different species of plants that include softwoods such as pine trees.

They then converted these chipped woods into a material called pulp by either chemical or mechanical means.

Chemical pulping involves the use of a chemical process to weaken the bond that holds the wood together and separate a complex material known as lignin from the cellulose fibers. A liquid known as cooking liquor is then used to dissolve the lignin and later washed away from the cellulose fibers.

The mechanical process involves squeezing the chips of wood and then being converted into fibers by the use of machines. In this process, lignin is not separated from the cellulose fibers.

The presence of this lignin causes the yellowing and weakening of such paper.

They later transferred the wet pulp from either of the above processes to a paper machine. They then subjected it to constant pressing and drying in order to remove the water.

The dried sheet of paper, finally obtained, is then cut into different sizes based on their application for suitable purposes.

Different papers have unique properties, such as density and thickness, depending on the type of pulp they are derived from. This influences their respective flammability and applicability. Let’s review some different papers and some of their properties.

Different types of paper

1. Glossy paper: This is the type of paper used in magazines, flyers, and brochures and they are shiny. It is obtained from a material made of approximately 90% pulp.

An average glossy paper is approximately 0.23mm in thickness at 250 gm. It is produced using a substance called kaolin (a white clay) and calcium carbonate.

The presence of calcium carbonate, a non-flammable substance, decreases the flammability property of the overall paper.

2. Blotting paper: This type of paper is frequently obtained from pulp made from cotton. It can absorb organic liquids such as oil and ink.

They are usually employed in cosmetics to absorb excess oil from the face.

This type of paper is averagely 0.35mm in thickness at about 192gsm. They are weaker but more flammable than paper made from low-grade wood pulp since they are purely derived from cotton.

3. Bond paper: They are also derived from but not entirely made of cotton pulp. They are mostly used as papers for currency, letterhead stationeries, desktops, and other office machines.

4. Tissue paper: This is gotten from wood pulp or recycled materials such as cardboard and newspapers. It can also be obtained from a mixture of recycled paper materials and wood pulp.

It is light and its average weight ranges from 10 – 45gsm. They are highly flammable when compared to average office paper.

5. Cardboard paper: This type is made from a mixture of pulps got through chemical, mechanical, and semi-mechanical processes. Since it is subjected to mechanical pulping, it is rich in lignin, which amounts to 5% of the total pulp.

It also contains ash content and the chemical and physical property of the ash present depends on the wood used.

It is thicker than most average paper and its density ranges from 250 – 1000gsm depending on the usage of such paper.

They often use it for making product boxes and other packing materials. It is less flammable when compared to average office paper.

6. Copy paper: This type of paper is found almost everywhere and is used frequently. They are paper produced for printing use at home or in the office.

They typically contain cellulose, calcium carbonate, and a substance known as china clay. The thickness of an average copy paper is about 0.08mm at 100gsm.

Many papers are flammable even when they differ in properties from each other. Cardboard might burn slowly compared to tissue paper. However, they are still flammable.

Therefore, it is better to stay away from fire and fire-causing agents, especially when you have an important piece in/on a paper to protect.

You might try to discard old papers by burning them when their population in your vicinity is getting out of hand. However, burning them is not an option.

Burning pieces of paper, especially on a large scale, comes with a lot of environmental and health risks. It causes different hazards, such as air pollution, water source poisoning, and soil contamination.

A better solution to burning papers is recycling them. Also, paper waste can be converted to biomass fuel, which is a reliable and renewable source of energy.

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