Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tiny Little Hairs to Tree-Free Papers

In a previous post, we talked about the history of Crane and cotton rags as a raw material. I receieved a package today from Mike Brown at Buckeye Specialty Cellulose in Memphis, the company that supplies another of Crane's raw materials for its papers: cotton linters.

Linters, or lint, as they are often called, are the tiny little hairs that adhere to the cotton seed after the staple fibers have been ginned off for textiles. Imagine a brand-new tennis ball and you can understand the fuzz factor. Much of these cotton seeds, with linters still attached, are used as a feed additive for dairy cows. But for many decades, Crane has been using cotton linters to make fine 100% cotton papers.

Linters are a recovered fiber, because they have to be removed in order to efficiently extract valuable cotton-seed oil. The linters act like a sponge, and soak up too much oil. So special machines were developed to remove the linters to better prepare the seed for squeezing. New infrastructures were also developed to recover this valuable source of cellulose for papermaking and other specialty cellulose applications.

I grew up on a small family farm. I have never been able to get my intellectual arms around the enormity of something like the cotton-seed oil industry. Millions of pounds of these tiny little hairs are used each year to make Crane's cotton papers. How big, then, must the cotton-seed oil and indeed the entire cotton industry be? It boggles.

Luckily, every day I can get my intellectual arms around the fact that these tiny little hairs, recovered from such huge enterprises, make an extraordinary paper.

I got a second delivery today as well. An envelope from Ms. Bliss with tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game! So to celebrate the timely confluence of these two disparate arrivals, here is a photo to connect them.

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