Virtues of handmade paper

Eco-friendly choices.  

HANDMADE PAPER has always been appealing because of its texture and design. Boasting of durability - it can last for over a 100 years - and made in an eco-friendly manner, handmade paper is once again becoming popular.

It has found use not just for writing, printing, typing and cyclostyling but also in packing, wrapping, making gift carry bags and shopping bags, etc. Since plastic has been banned in various countries across the world, the demand for paper carry bags has increased.

The strength of handmade paper gives it the edge in the making of carry bags. The fanciful appearance of handmade paper has also given it an special place for letter heads, matching envelopes, desk pads, diaries, telephone directories, photo albums and visitors books.

It is said that the late Indira Gandhi used to have a letter head made by a handmade paper unit at Badalwad, Mysore, because of the appealing floral designs the unit managed to produce.

Handmade paper has also found new uses as sweet boxes, shoe boxes, bangle boxes, craft paper, marble paper pulp boads, card sheets, wrapper paper, etc.

According to B.B. Girimath, manager, Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, Pallimukku, his showroom has supplied about 10 lakh handmade office files to various Government departments in and around Kochi. Files, folders, file dockets and file pads have become very popular because of their durability, says Mr. Girimath.

According to the study undertaken by KVIC, use of one lakh file folders or carry bags made of hand made paper saves approximately 3,000 eucalyptus or 45,000 bamboo trees.

There are many decorative types of handmade paper which go by names such as moon rock, crinkled, leatherette, stone wash deckle edge, water mark, banana, etc., which are used for various purposes.

It is usually the cost of handmade paper that keeps away many. Costing from Rs 6 to Rs 13 for a sheet sized 22''X18'' and less, the drawback of handmade paper comes to the fore when it has to be used as only white writing paper.

The process of handmade paper involves recycling agro wastes, cotton tailor cuttings, jute waste, waste paper, etc. They are treated with mild chemicals like rosin, alum, starches, casein vegatables dyes ash, etc., and dried in the sun.

Since the process is labour intensive, in Kerala there are only two such units which are part of the Khadi and Village Industries sector. Most of the demand for hand made paper here is met by units outside the State, Mr. Girimath said.

The paperless work culture, which has caught on following the advent of computers, is also perhaps a boon for handmade paper. It is only the beginning but many new and old offices too are are moving towards a paperless future. It is likely that in future that paper requirement of certain offices may be met by handmade paper.

But mill paper surely beats handmade paper in terms of bulk production. The paper mills drove away handmade paper by manufacturing paper in bulk. It had revoloutionised the paper industry at a time.

With the focus shifting to eco-friendly units and forest conservation, more and more research and development is being done on handmade paper to make it more competitive.

When one tree is felled the loss is about Rs 32 lakhs, considering the oxygen it generates, soil erosion and pollution it controls and shelter it provides besides fruits and flowers it produces. Handmade paper helps save that tree.

By Shyama Rajagopal

Photo: H.Vibhu