Trees in a Ton

“How many trees are required for
just one ton of paper…?”

In my recent
research of some of the 96 paper mills in the Southern U.S., I found a report
showing that one mill of particular interest produces over 876,000 tons
of paper per year. So I had to ask myself, “How many trees are required for
just one ton of paper?”
Groups have estimated that using one ton of
recycled paper could save 17 trees. (Not to mention the 380 gallons of oil, the
three cubic yards of landfill space, the 4000 kilowatts of energy, and the 7000
galloons of water that would be saved by using one ton of recycled paper rather
than virgin fiber.)

I found that a
definitive answer, though, depends on the type of paper being produced and the
types of trees being used. Obviously trees differ in girth, height, age, type,
and usability. Since most large trees are used for lumber, tress larger than 8
inches in diameter are typically not used for paper. Most papers are a
mixture of both hard and soft woods and some of the “trees” used are just chips
and sawdust or pre-consumer recycled fibers that never make it out of the paper

Typically one ton
of uncoated, virgin, printing and office paper uses 24 trees while one ton of
coated, lower-end, virgin magazine paper used for newsmagazines and most
catalogs use just under 8 trees. To put this into perspective, one ream of
paper containing 500 sheets uses 6% of the “average” tree and many businesses
and schools run through multiple reams in one day.

So a pallet
holding 40 containers, each with 10 reams of copy paper weighs one ton. About
24 trees are needed to produce just one pallet. With 30% post-consumer recycled
paper, however, 7.2 trees are saved and 50% post-consumer recycled content
would save 12 trees per one ton of copy paper produced. (Simply multiply the
percentage of recycled paper to the number of trees estimated to be necessary
for production of that paper type.) Just imagine the forest that could be saved
if the packaging industry reverted to recycled materials!

If you would like to learn easy ways to
decrease your paper consumption, visit
and take the pledge. Shrink is a new collaboration of over 50 different
European NGOs addressing the problem of over-consumption as it relates to


For further
information see:,,

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