The Impacts of Paper Use

Benefits of Recycling Paper

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, …

Recycling one ton of paper does the following:

  • Saves 7,000 gallons (or almost 26,500 liters) of water
  • Saves “enough energy to power the average American home for six months.”
  • Saves “3.3 cubic yards of landfill space”
  • Reduces “greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent.”

And according to the New Brunswick Solid Waste Association, …

  • “One tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees.”
  • “Recycling paper to make new paper products uses 65% less water, causes 75% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution.”
  • “A one-metre high stack of recycled newspapers saves a 10-metre high pine tree.”
  • “Recycling one tonne of paper saves three-cubic metres of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, 29,000 litres of water, and 30 kg of air pollution.”

More Facts about Paper and Recycling:

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, …

How much paper is used in the United States every year?

  • “About 71 million tons of paper and paperboard.”
  • “More than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published.”

What can recycled paper be turned into?

  • In addition to thousands of different standard paper products,  recycled paper can be used to make “masking tape, paper money, globes, bandages, dust masks, hospital gowns, coffee filters, lamp shades, car insulation, animal bedding, planting pots for seedlings, egg cartons” and more!

How much paper is recycled every year?

  • Paper makes up over 33% of all recyclable items collected in the United States, by weight, or nearly 45 million tons of paper products in 2010.
  • “About 72 percent of newspaper/mechanical papers and 85 percent of corrugated cardboard were recovered [in the US] in 2010.”
  • “In 2010, the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds for each person living in the US, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.”

How many times can paper be recycled?

What are the base materials typically used to make paper?

  • In the United States about a third of all paper inputs are recycled paper materials, another third comes from trees and other plants, and the final third comes from leftover wood materials from sawmills.


And according to the New Brunswick Solid Waste Association, …

Paper Facts

  • The average North American uses 250 kg of paper per year. If a city the size of Vancouver recycled all of its paper, that would save over 800 million trees.
  • Close to 40,000 trees per day are used to make Canadian newspapers.

Recycling and Waste in General

  •  “You can reduce carbon dioxide emissions (a greenhouse gas) by 1,870 kg a year when you recycle all the waste newsprint, cardboard, glass, and metal from your house.”
  • The average person produces approximately 9.5 kg of waste per day.
  • Close to 35% of landfill space is taken up by paper.

Environmental Facts

  • Trees can filter as much as 132 kg of pollutants annually.
  • People have consumed more in the past 65 years than in the entire previous period of human existence.


What are the Environmental Impacts of Virgin Paper Vs. Recycled Paper?

According to the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator*, the following is an estimate of the impacts of one ton of 100% recycled and one ton of 0% recycled uncoated freshsheet copy paper.  As can be seen, replacing 1 ton of virgin paper with 1 ton of 100% post-consumer content paper saves approximately 4 trees and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 2,068 lbs, waste water by 11,218 gallons, and solid waste by 751 lbs (among other benefits).


Also as evident in the above example, the increase in chemical oxygen demand is the only area in the list where recycled paper production is worse than the production of non-recycled paper.

For a more detailed look at how the above impacts of paper production can be offset, click here.

(* Environmental impact estimates were made using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator. For more information visit  The information provided by the Paper Calculator is based on publicly available American national averages. Data may vary for specific mills. The Paper Calculator is based on research done by the Paper Task Force, a peer-reviewed study of the lifecycle environmental impacts of paper production and disposal. Comparisons are based on national American averages
for pulp composition and bleaching technologies).

According to BC Hydro, …

“Manufacturing recycled paper produces 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution, as well as using 58% less water and 64% less energy than making paper from virgin wood pulp. Using 100% post-consumer recycled paper causes 100% less deforestation than using paper made from virgin pulp – resulting in 100% less wildlife habitat being destroyed.”