Green Living

Would You Change The World If You Recycle More Paper?

Would You Change The World If You Recycle More Paper?

Do You Recycle Paper

Photo Compliments of Tony Fischer

The question of the day is would you change the world if you recycle more paper?  I ask because the United States produced about 20,700,000 tons of paper last year requiring roughly 55 to 110 million trees. Sadly only about 11,000,000 tons, or 53 percent, will be recycled at end of life. Each person in the United States uses around 750 pounds of paper every year. Collectively our US consumption is 187 billion pounds per year, by far the largest per capita consumption rate of paper for any country in the world. The world consumes approximately 300 million tons of paper each year…That is a lot of trees and if not recycled it ends up in the landfill.

World consumption of paper has jumped a staggering 400 percent in the last 40 years. This means nearly 4 billion trees or 35 percent of the total trees cut around the world each year are used by the paper industry on every continent.

This is why I’m asking do your recycle paper. The industry responsible for paper production is the third most energy intensive of all manufacturing industries, using over 12% of all energy in the industrial sector. The paper and pulp industry is also the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the manufacturing sector.

If you raise the percent of paper in the waste stream that is recycled you have a huge impact, with not a lot of effort.

Typical Numbers (because of the variability these are rough numbers)

  • 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.
  • 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)

Junk Mail…Adds to the Paper Waste Stream

Every year, American households receive a total of 104.7 billion pieces of junk mail, or 848 pieces of junk mail per household. Junk mail consumes 6.5 million tons of paper.

Approximately 44% of all junk mail goes to landfills unopened

Landfills & Paper

Though paper recovery rates in the US have increased in recent years, paper still represents one of the biggest components of solid waste in landfills; right around 26 million tons (or 16% in 2009 of landfill solid waste). When paper decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Additional Sources of Information

Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority…Paper Consumed Each Year
Paper Life Cycle

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  1. Here in NY, we recycle paper, plastic, and certain types of metal. It really is effortless. Great post, Charlie!

  2. Yes we do and my daughter started a recycling program at the corrections facility where she is a psychologist.. It is so important..

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