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Trees to Paper

How often have we all bemoaned the number of killed trees it must have taken to put together a massive report? Where I work, we often comment that the amount of paper required to document the Quality Control inspections on our product weighs more than the product itself – and we’re talking about a 1-ton object here!

Why not hang some facts onto these idle speculations? The following information is from Conservatree, a project of The Tides Center.

One ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) office copier paper uses 24 trees. This is the weight of a "pallet" of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight), made up of 40 cartons. Each carton contains 10 reams of paper, with a ream equaling 500 sheets. Therefore, each ream of paper uses 6% of a tree. One tree makes 16.67 reams or 8,333 sheets.

In this calculation, a "typical tree" is considered to be 40 feet tall and 6-8 inches in diameter (hardwood and/or softwood, as the paper type requires). The kraft chemical (freesheet) pulping process is the assumed technology used for making the paper.

1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees (made by the groundwood process).

1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees.

1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees.

To calculate how many trees are saved by using recycled paper:

  • Multiply the number of trees needed to make a ton of the kind of paper you're talking about (groundwood or freesheet), then
  • Multiply by the percent recycled content in the paper.
  • For example,

    1 ton (40 cartons) of 30% postconsumer content copier paper saves 7.2 trees.

    1 ton of 50% postconsumer content copier paper saves 12 trees.

    Let me end with these facts, from http://www.newdream.org/consumer/paper.php:

    • U.S. pulp mills consume 12,430 square miles of forests around the world each year.
    • Each American on average consumes more than 730 pounds of paper each year.
    • Americans use approximately 31.5 million tons of printing and writing papers each year, an amount requiring over 535 million trees and more than 12 billion gallons of oil to produce.
    • In the United States, more than 90 percent of the printing and writing paper comes from virgin tree fiber.
    • Nearly half the trees cut in North America are used for papermaking.


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