Does Recycling Paper Really Save The Rainforest?

Computers were supposed to eliminate paper, instead they made a monster that consumes paper like crazy. Everyone wants a hard copy of everything, so they print, print, print.

Will using fewer paper products or recycling paper help save the rain forests? No, it won't. The trees cut in the rainforest are harvested for two reasons, the biggest reason being population growth. The more valuable trees in the rain forests, such as teak and mahogany, are harvested to make lumber for furniture and other products, such as teak decking for boats.

Not all paper is made from whole trees, either. Over half of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. comes from recovered paper and the wood waste (such as wood chips and sawdust) left behind from lumber manufacturing.


1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees

1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees

A "pallet" of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore,

1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees

1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets

1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)

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 (15.36)

1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)
How do you calculate how many trees are saved by using recycled paper?

(1) Multiply the number of trees needed to make a ton of the kind of paper you're talking about (groundwood or freesheet), then

(2) 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.

So, recycling paper products DOES save trees, but not trees in the rainforest, and the types of trees used to make paper (usually pine) do not contribute as much oxygen to the air as broad leaf trees, so the trees we are saving by recycling paper are not as beneficial as the rainforest trees that are being destroyed. Also take into account that the paper companies replant all the trees that are harvested to make paper, and the equation shifts even more precariously.

We need to save the rainforest, but while recycling is never a bad thing, and recycling paper products does save trees, it's not saving the trees that really count.


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