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Facts About Recycling Paper

Quick Facts

1.  Relating the amount of paper recycled to the number of trees saved is meaningless as tree size varies greatly.

2.  Production of paper grocery sacks generate 70% more air pollution and 50% more water pollution than plastic bags.

3.  21% of paper grocery sacks are recycled.

4.  It takes approximately 91% more energy to recycle 1kg of paper than 1kg of plastic.

5.  The pulp and paper industry is the world's fifth largest consumer of energy.

6. For one ton of product, the pulp and paper industry uses more water than any other industry.

7. Black and White toner contains at least six different substances which are considered hazardous and toxic to the water supply.

8. 30-35% of trees logged in the US are used to produce paper.

9. Office print is the second largest source of pollution in the United States, second to vehicle exhaust.

10. Recycling 1 ton of newspaper saves 1 ton of wood.  Recycling 1 one of copy paper saves slightly more than 2 tons of wood.  This is because twice as much wood is used to produce higher quality paper like copy paper.

11. 90% of paper pulp is made from wood.

12. Most cardboard boxes have over 25% recycled fibers and some are 100% recycled fiber.

13. The average American uses the equivalent of one 100ft tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products every year.

14. Enough wood and paper is thrown away in one year to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

15. Old growth forests account for 9% of world pulp production.  16% of pulp comes from trees raised in "farmed forests" specifically for pulp.

16. One tree can filter up to 25kg of air pollutants per year.

17. "Farmed forests" have widespread soil erosion and require large amounts of fertilizer.  They also have little plant and wild-life biodiversity compared to virgin forests.

18.  Wood fiber can usually only be recycled up to 5 times after which the fibers become too short and weak to be useful for paper production.

19.  Many "soft" brands of toilet paper use more long fiber from virgin tree pulp while recycled toilet paper is often "harder" and unbleached.

20.  In 2007 in the United States more than 56% (a record high) of the paper consumed was recovered for recycling.

21. New newspapers, boxes, office paper, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, insulation, cereal boxes, kitty litter, and molded packaging are some of the products made from recycled paper.

Myth: The paper industry contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Fact: Deforestation in the Amazon results mostly from cattle ranches (60-70%), and the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence farming.

Benefits of Recycling Paper

In addition to conserving trees, there are many other reasons why it is important to recycle paper and paperboard waste. Recycling these resources provides raw materials to various industries, which can save money on the production of new goods, and recycling also creates jobs and allows the expansion of green technologies and industries.

From an ecological standpoint, recycling paper products reduces the need for landfills and incinerators, while also preventing water pollution and the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment.

Energy Conservation
When used paper products are recycled into new materials, less energy is required than is needed for the production of virgin paper products. In fact, creating products from recycled paper requires anywhere from 28-70% less energy than is needed to make the same products from brand new, raw materials.

The production of goods from recycled paper also requires far less water. This is because, when dealing with recyclable paper, there is no need to turn wood into pulp. It is during the process of converting wood into pulp that the most water is used. In fact, recycling 1 ton of paper can save a dramatic 30,000 liters of water.

Forest Conservation
Tree farms are the primary source for wood that will be converted into new paper. These farms consist of fast-growing trees that are cut down and replaced with new trees. However, as the demand for paper products has skyrocketed, the need for more wood has led to the need to clear valuable forests, which serve as vital ecosystems and wildlife habitats. These forests are replaced by “sustainable” tree farms, but because of the lack of diversity of tree species on managed farms, wildlife is displaced and delicate ecosystems are damaged.

Recycling reduces the need to clear old growth forests to plant tree farms. By recycling paper, forests remain as they should, because demand will be met by products that have been created using recycled paper instead.

Pollution Reduction
The production of new paper products requires the use of oil, in addition to the use of chlorine during the bleaching process, which results in the release of toxic dioxin into the environment. Additionally, even though paper is a biodegradable product, as it breaks down in landfills, it releases methane gas that contributes to global warming.

Recycled paper, on the other hand, is typically not re-bleached. If it is re-bleached, oxygen, rather than chlorine, is the agent used. Furthermore, recycling 1 ton of paper saves 1,800 liters of oil. Therefore, by recycling paper and purchasing products made from recycled paper, consumers can help reduce the amount of pollutants released into the air and water.


The act of recycling paper clearly has many quantifiable effects on the global environment and on industry as well, replacing polluting manufacturing processes with renewable, greener technology, while allowing natural forests to thrive.