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In the United States, the wood used for the manufacture of paper is mainly from small diameter bolts and pulpwood. It is usually measured by the cord or by weight.

Although the fiber used in making paper is overwhelmingly wood fiber, a large percentage of other ingredients is needed.

Paper is made from a mix of types of trees. Some are hardwood, some are softwood. In addition, some are tall, some old, some wide, some young, some thin. Many of the “trees” used to make paper are just chips and sawdust.

One ton of a typical paper requires two cords of wood, but also requires 55,000 gallons of water, 102 pounds of sulfur, 350 pounds of lime, 289 pounds of clay, 1.2 tons of coal, 112 kilowatt hours of power, 20 pounds of dye and pigments and 108 pounds of starch, as well as other ingredients.

Claudia Thompson, in her book Recycled Papers: The Essential Guide (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), reports on an estimate calculated by Tom Soder, then a graduate student in the Pulp and Paper Technology Program at the University of Maine. He calculated that, based on a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods 40 feet tall and 6-8 inches in diameter, it would take a rough average of 24 trees to produce a ton of printing and writing paper, using the kraft chemical (freesheet) pulping process.

If we assume that the groundwood process is about twice as efficient in using trees, then we can estimate that it takes about 12 trees to make a ton of groundwood and newsprint. (The number will vary somewhat because there often is more fiber in newsprint than in office paper, and there are several different ways of making this type of paper.)

Many of the “trees” used to make paper are just chips and sawdust.

Addicional information

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. Therefore,

1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets

1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree .

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

1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees.