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What can a tree be used for?

Once they get past the obvious uses like furniture, toothpicks, houses and paper, most people are hard-pressed to think of other products made from trees. The fact of the matter is, there are thousands of products -- many of which we use every day -- that we aren't aware are made from timber.

When man first discovered fire, he realized the value of trees as firewood. Later, when we began building shelters, we used trees for lumber. In the process of making lumber, however, there was a tremendous amount of waste: sawdust, bark and wood scraps all had to be hauled away and that created more problems.

Then scientists began to analyze the structure of trees and they found a veritable cornucopia of useful material.

The bark of the tree is used in the production of chemicals, resins, waxes, vitamins, plywood adhesives, plastic fillers, lacquers and oil-spill control agents. It is also used as a fuel in forest industry mills, for mulches and soil conditioners.

Wood flours and melamine resins using cellulose filler are principal components of dinnerware, toys, handles for cooking utensils, telephone housings and camera cases.

From ethyl cellulose and other chemical-based cellulose we make tool handles, photographic films, sausage casings and football helmets. Acetate filament yarns make textile products such as clothing, drapes and rugs. Nitro-cellulose is used in making solid rocket propellants and explosives.

Torula yeast is a high-protein product made from wood sugars as a by-product of the pulping process in papermaking. Different types of torula are used in baby food and cereals, in feed supplements for cattle, fish and chickens and in pet foods. Torula has been found to make bees and lobsters grow faster.

Turpentine and tall oil reclaimed from the paper-pulping process are important ingredients in paint, varnish, adhesives, asphalt, printing inks, rubber products, soaps and polishes. Synthesized essential oils are used in chewing gum, toothpaste, menthol cigarettes, detergents and shampoos.

Bark, ground wood and spent pulping liquors provide a source of energy for the pulp and paper industry. Nationally, more than half of the industry's total energy is self-generated from these residues.

Forests and water

Still another forest product that is vital to our existence -- without which we wouldn't survive, in fact -- but which few would ever think of is water. Our forests collect, clean, regulate and recycle much of the water we use and drink every day.

Forests are natural water regulators. Forest soil can absorb up to 18 inches of water from rain, then slowly release it back into natural channels and watercourses. And forest soil cleanses the water too, removing the impurities. That's why so many municipal reservoirs are located as close as possible to forests.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, they help keep our water supply fresh and protect our wetlands. And trees are renewable. There are no "dry holes," no "exhausted veins," no "bottom of the barrel" in a forest.

But if we are to continue to enjoy this precious natural resource, we must practice good forest management.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:wood products
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 1998
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