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How Much Paper Does a Tree Make?

How long is a piece of string?

First we have to consider the raw material. As well as trees, waste from sawmills, and recycled used paper can be used. In addition to this, some species of trees produce more paper than others, although this is not necessarily dependant upon the how thick the trunk is, or how tall the they are.

For example in the US (sorry but that’s all we have) about one third of paper is made from left-overs, i.e. the sawdust and chips that would otherwise be burned. Another third is made from recycled pulp; paper that has already been used once.
The final third is made of new wood that is too small to be used for lumber, e.g. less than eight inches in diameter, or trees not suitable as timber.

Yes, but how many trees?... Some sources state that it takes 17 trees to make a ton (US) of paper, however that is a gross over simplification and as we have shown there are many variables to be considered e.g. the pulping process and fibre sources. Generally, the following calculation can be used.

Take a cord of hardwood (that’s 8ft x 4ft x 4ft) such as Oak. This will weigh about 2 tons and be about 15-20% water - and have taken up to 100 years to grow.

According to the American Forest and Paper Association of Washington DC. our cord of wood would yield:

  • 1-2,000 lbs of paper depending on the process used. (That’s about 181 reams of 80gsm or about 45 boxes to your or me)
  • 942 100 page hardback books
  • 1,200 copies of the National Geographic
  • 2,700 copies of an average daily newspaper (or 1 Sunday supplement)

The moral of the tale? Recycle your used paper, and print duplex whenever practicable! You will reduce costs AND do your bit for the environment.

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