MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: How many trees will make say 1 kg or 1000 sheets of paper?

Date: Mon Mar 15 12:08:35 1999
Posted By: Bob Peeples, PE, Chemical Engineer, Environment & Ecologyal Program Management, U S Postal Service
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 919954557.En

The simplest answer that I can give you is that it takes about 17 trees (11 meters tall) to make about 1000 Kg of paper. As you have probably found out by now, the answer is not always a simple one. First of all, most wood used for paper comes from parts of trees that are felled for lumber and are useless to the lumber mill. Only about one forth of the trees felled in the United States are made into paper. The remainder goes into lumber and other building products. Paper is completely recyclable. Besides being recyclable, paper has important environmental advantages. Much of our modern society revolves the transfer of paper from one place to another. That is why mail is so good for the environment. Advertising mail, for example, provides more than 20 million jobs for American workers and is looked at and or read by 85 percent of the households that receive it. Studies show advertising mail reduces shopping trips by car as many as 300.million times a year. Some people like to call it a mall in a mailbox, because they can shop for, order, and receive almost anything using only the mail. That translates into a savings of about a billion liters of gasoline each year, and a reduction of about 150 millions kilograms of automobile exhaust pollutants emitted into the air every year. It also helps to reduce the number of automobile accidents and deaths. I guess that also makes shopping by mail the world’s largest carpool. Think of how much in modern society is represented by a piece of paper: contracts, deeds, birth certificates, laws, currency–the list goes on and on.

That same ton of paper that I mentioned earlier will occupy 90 cubic feet in a landfill, and will use up 28,000 liters of water and the energy equivalent of 3˝ barrels of oil when it is manufactured into paper. These are good things to tell people when trying to convince them to recycle. Paper can be made from many kinds of fiber other than wood–plants like kenaf and hemp are used successfully in the United States for paper production, but it must be processed into paper just like wood. No matter what we make our paper from, we are much better off recycling our waste paper. It requires much less water and energy to process old paper into recycled paper as it does to make new paper. Every year the company that I work for delivers more than 185 billion pieces of mail. We don’t want all that waste paper to end up clogging landfills and posing a threat to the environment when people are finished with it. The US Environment & Ecologyal Protection Agency has classified discarded mail as mixed paper waste, so it is completely recyclable. The Postal Service is always working on creative ways to turn discarded mail from an environmental liability into a salable commodity, helping to ensure that mail does not end up as landfill. Last year the Postal Service made more than $8 million in revenue by selling its recyclables and avoided a similar cost in waste disposal fees. The USPS is turning recyclable paper into innovative products such as office paper, compost soil, pencils, and roofing materials. The USPS has even developed trash containers for discarded mail that are themselves recyclable.

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