Is Burning Paper a Chemical Change?

Is Burning paper a chemical change

Every day, we witness several changes happening around us. The sunsets in the East, while the moon shines during the night. A flower turns into a fruit, and a child grows into a man. However, changes are quite different from one another in many aspects.

Is Burning Paper a Chemical Change? Yes, burning paper represents a chemical change as it forms a new substance with different properties ie; ash. Paper is a combustible substance and catches fire easily. After it catches fire, it burns, and the residue left behind is called ash.

Why do you think burning paper represents a chemical change? But first, what do you know about changes in general? How are physical and chemical changes different from one another? This article has all your questions answered.


What is Paper?

Paper is a sheet-like substance that is made from plant materials.

It is a heterogeneous mixture of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and filling material such as calcium carbonate and china clay. Additionally, chemical additives such as starch, rosin, alum, etc., are also a part of this mixture, used according to the quality of the paper.

Paper is one of the most remarkable inventions of humankind. It has aided in documenting and preserving information for thousands of years.

Back in the past, before the paper was invented, people used to write on either bamboo or pieces of silk clothes. And although silk was light in weight and convenient, it was too expensive for everyone to afford.

On the other hand, bamboo was cheap and readily available but was inconvenient to use and store. And because the paper was both economical and practical, it was better than both older writing substitutes.


Different types of Paper

Following are the different varieties of paper we use in our day-to-day lives:

Writing Paper

It is used in stationary requirements such as notebooks, documents, letters, etc. They have a smooth texture and are made from good-quality pulp.

Writing Paper

Drawing Paper

Artists and designers mainly use drawing papers for making their drawings and designs. These papers are a little rough in texture but good in quality.

Drawing Paper


Newspapers have traditionally been published usually on cheap, low-grade paper. It is a source of written information about current events and is often printed in black ink on a grey background.

News paper

Tissue Paper

The soft paper maintains our hygiene in the form of tissues. People make use of them when they consume food, mostly in restaurants and cafes. People also love the flowers, paintings, and decorative items made up of tissue paper.

Tissue papers are highly popular due to their soft texture, lightweight, and easy-to-store nature.

Tissue Paper

Book Paper

Book papers are off-white papers used in the books. They are opaque to minimize the see-through of text from one side of the page to the other.

Book Paper

Toilet Paper

All of us are well aware of the importance of toilet paper in our daily lives. Tissue papers are made from the pulp of virgin trees and come in a roll and help us wipe the dirt from our bodies.

Toilet Paper


Physical and Chemical Changes

All of you must know how change is one true law of the universe. Everything, from a small molecule to fully-grown multicellular organisms like humans, is destined to change in some way or the other.

Change is an integral part of our lives. Every day, we witness millions of changes taking place around us. Some changes involve two substances, while others need more. Some of these are reversible, while the others are more permanent.

To understand these changes more deeply, we’ve divided them into two groups: Physical and Chemical changes.

If you want to learn more about what each change means and how they differ from one another, keep reading:

Physical Change

A change in which no new substance is formed is referred to as a physical change. There is no change in the composition of the substance undergoing a physical change.

When ice melts, it changes into water. Only the rearrangement of the water molecules takes place. The chemical composition of water molecules does not change; they are still made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Hence, no new substance is formed.

Physical change is a temporary change and can be reversed. It does not last for a long period. Ice that changes into the water due to the process of melting can be frozen again when kept at a low temperature, so melting is a temporary and reversible process.

There may be a few changes in size, shape, physical state, etc. The amount of energy required in a physical change is too little.

Chemical Change

A change in which a new substance is formed is referred to as a chemical change.

There is a change in the chemical composition of the substance undergoing a chemical change. When milk changes to curd, its chemical composition changes.

The chemical change is a permanent change and cannot be reversed. A grown adult cannot turn back into a small child.

The properties of the new substance formed are different from the original substances. The rusted iron does not possess any magnetic properties, while the iron possesses magnetic properties.

A large amount of heat and light energy is absorbed or given out in a chemical change. Cooking food requires a lot of heat energy, and in the process, a lot of heat is absorbed by the vessel and food.

Physical vs Chemical Change


How does Burning Paper represent a Chemical Change?

The process of combustion burns paper. Combustion is a chemical reaction between a Hydrocarbon and Oxygen. When the reaction occurs, it releases heat and light energy.

Let’s conduct an experiment of burning some pieces of paper and watch the changes that take place. Under an adult’s presence and with utmost care of personal safety, follow these steps:

Step 1: Take some pieces of paper. Weigh it and note down its weight.

Step 2: Light a match stick and use it to set these pieces of paper on fire.

Step 3: After the papers are burnt, collect all the ash left behind by them.

Step 4: Weigh the ash and note down its weight.

You may be able to observe the following changes:

1. When the pieces of paper are set on fire, they give out a lot of heat and light.

2. During the burning process, the papers release smoke and water vapor.

3. The papers have transformed into a new substance called ash.

4. The weight of ash collected afterward is lesser in comparison to the original weight of paper.

Paper and Ash

All these observations conclude that burning paper represents a chemical change for the following reasons:

Paper is mostly made up of carbon compounds. When it is burnt, the carbon compounds react with oxygen to give out carbon dioxide and water. The smoke and water vapors released are mostly composed of carbon dioxide and water. They get drifted away and cannot be brought back. A new substance is formed.

The leftover ash cannot be converted back into paper. The change is permanent and irreversible. One can write on paper but not on ash.

The properties of the ash formed are different from the original paper. Ash is made up of carbon and is almost black, whereas the paper was white.

The ash has an indefinite shape and size, whereas the paper had a definite shape and size.

A large amount of heat and light energy are released during the process of burning paper. One may feel the warmth and see the bright flames during the reaction.

Hence, Burning Paper is a Chemical Change.


Interesting facts about paper

Before we come to the end of this article, let’s have a look at some amazing facts about the paper:

1. The paper and pulp manufacturing industry is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

2. Paper is one of the largest contributors to solid waste in landfills, with about 16% solid waste.

3. About 45% of all print-outs and photocopies are discarded in the trash bin before the end of the day.

4. The number of junk mails collected throughout a year is equivalent to 100 million trees.




Burning Paper is an irreversible change. Paper once burned cannot be recovered from ashes. Plenty of resources are used for manufacturing paper and its products.

Every day, trees are cut down on a massive scale to fulfill the ever-increasing demand for the enormous amount of paper required.

Burning the paper destroys its ability to be reused and recycled. Additionally, it also produces smoke and dust. Therefore, before burning any paper, one must ensure it is utilized as many times as possible.

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