Contrary to popular belief, trees aren’t just planted to make paper. Wood byproducts are used in a diverse, surprising, range of industries, outside paper production.
If you’ve eaten a burger, taken a shower or painted your nails in the last 24 hours, chances are you’ve come into contact with a common wood byproduct, wood pulp – without even knowing it. Believe it or not, this prolific wonder material can be found in an array of unexpected everyday items.
Wood pulp is naturally derived from trees, cotton and other plant materials. It’s lightweight, strong, a conductor of electricity, isn’t harmful to humans and can be produced at almost no cost. The following list details some of the most unexpected everyday items that contain wood pulp:
- Fast food
Many leading fast food chains serve items that contain wood pulp. Wood pulp additives are often present in shredded cheese, fish fillet patties, sausage, tortillas, onion rings, pancakes and even milkshakes. With complementary chemicals, cellulose adds texture, thickens and stabilises food – and is safe for human consumption. Without it, ice cream would melt faster.
- Bath towels
Some bath towels are made with a by-product of wood pulp known as rayon. Rayon is highly absorbent, soft and comfortable on the skin, but doesn’t insulate body heat – ideal for use in hot and humid climates. Wet wipes are also often made with rayon, as it allows each sheet to hold disinfecting liquid while maintaining its texture and shape.
Toothpastes can contain a form of wood pulp called carboxymethyl cellulose, which is used for its high viscosity, non-toxicity and hypoallergenic properties. Without cellulose, toothpaste wouldn’t be able to bind easily with water molecules.
- Nail polish
Cellulose is added to nail polish as nitrocellulose because of its strength and quick-drying properties. Nitrocellulose is also added to leather finishes, wood varnishes and printing inks.
- Ping pong balls
Nitrocellulose is used to produce celluloid, which, in turn, is used to make ping pong balls. Celluloid is easily moulded and shaped, while still remaining bouncy. It’s also used to create guitar picks.