Volume 16, Number 1, Jan. 1994, p.8

Survey of 'Permanent' Papers for Printing and Writing

by Ellen McCrady

Abbey Publications has mailed out questionnaires for its second survey of "permanent" printing and writing papers produced in the U.S. and Canada. This survey covers papers (including those with recycled content) which meet the permanence requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Papers meeting this standard have an estimated life measured in centuries. By contrast, the acidic papers in almost universal use until recent years have lives measured in decades.

The majority of printing and writing papers made in the U.S. today last longer than they used to, because they are alkaline. However, in order to qualify as permanent by the ANSI standard, a paper must also contain at least 2% calcium carbonate, show a certain resistance to tear, and contain no more than 1% lignin. (Lignin is the major component of wood that is removed during pulping. If it is left in, the paper will darken from exposure to light.) Probably fewer than half of all alkaline papers qualify as permanent by the standard.

The purpose of the survey is twofold:

  1. To give those who buy printing and writing papers a comprehensive list of permanent papers by brand name and producer, in the three major categories covered by the ANSI standard: printing papers, artist papers, and business papers. These are further broken down into a total of 33 subcategories, such as "web offset," "tracing paper," and "computer paper." Both coated and uncoated papers are covered by the standard.
  2. To identify those permanent papers which include recycled materials, indicating the percentages of "recovered materials" (anything diverted from solid waste) and the narrower category of "post-consumer materials." These are the two kinds of recycled materials referred to in a recent Executive Order for purchases by Federal government agencies beginning December 31, 1994 (Executive order 12873, October 20, 1993, "Federal Acquisition, Recycling, and Waste Prevention," Part 5). The Executive Order will require all uncoated printed and writing paper bought by the agencies after December 31, 1994, to include 20% post-consumer materials. Certain kinds of printing and writing papers must contain a total of 50% recovered materials, including the 20% post-consumer component.

The Order makes no mention of permanence as a consideration in paper purchases by the Federal government, despite the existence of Public Law 101-423 (1991), which states: "It is the policy of the United States that Federal records, books and publications of enduring value be produced on acid free permanent paper."

The tabulated results of the survey are expected to be available in March 1994, and will be published in the Abbey Newsletter and the Alkaline Paper Advocate. Individual copies of the survey issue of either of these publications may be purchased from Abbey Publications for $5.00 each, prepaid, with a self-addressed mailing label enclosed. Other means of distribution, including through the Internet, are being explored.

Ellen McCrady
Abbey Publications
Abbey Newsletter and Alkaline Paper Advocate
7105 Geneva Dr., Austin, IX 78723
Fax 512/929-3995

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