How many trees are cut down a day for paper

How Many Trees Does It Take To Make 1 Ton Of Paper?

Industrial paper-making machinery at a pulp and paper plant production plant.

Paper is arguably one of the most important items that human society has ever invented as it contributed significantly to later technological advancements. In the process of making paper, trees are the most critical raw materials. It is estimated that 24 trees to make 1 ton of standard office paper.

History of Paper Making

Historical evidence indicates that the Chinese were the first society to develop a method to make pulp. Archaeologists indicate that the most ancient pieces of paper ever collected were from China from the 2nd century BCE. One of the people credited with the development of papermaking in China was Cai Lun, a eunuch in the court of the Han Dynasty. Although the process of making paper traces its roots to the Chinese, it was refined by Islamic societies who came up with machines to make vast amounts of paper. Today, China and the United States are the largest pulp and paper producers in the world.

Trees and the Production of Paper

The paper and pulp industry utilizes a variety of industrial processes to turn its natural resources (namely wood pulp) into consumer-grade commodities. There are two main methods of producing paper; a manual process, and a machine dependent process. Regardless of the process used in the manufacturing of the paper, the pulp is an essential component. In the making of pulp, a significant number of trees are cut down. The main consideration in determining the number of trees that are cut down is whether the pulp mill relies on a chemical or a mechanical pulping process. Industry experts indicate that while using the chemical pulping to produce 1 ton of printing paper approximately 24 trees are required. The 24 trees would have to be a combination of softwoods and hardwoods each about 40 feet tall with a diameter of roughly 6-8 inches. It is believed that the chemical pulping process, often referred to as the Kraft pulping process, is highly inefficient due to a large number of trees used in making a ton of paper. The mechanical pulping process is exceptionally more efficient than the Kraft pulping process since it uses fewer trees to make one ton of paper. The mechanical pulping process utilizes 12 trees which are a mixture of hardwood and softwood.

The Environmental Impact of Paper

The papermaking process has been criticized extensively by environmentalists since it contributes to pollution. Papermaking has an impact on the environment because it destroys trees in the process. According to data from the Global Forest Resource Assessment roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down each day around the world with a significant percentage being used in the paper industry. The major impact of the constant deforestation is the change in global climatic patterns. Apart from deforestation, the paper manufacturing industry also contributes to air pollution. In the United States, paper industries accounted for roughly 20% of the air pollution in 2015. Paper manufacturing also contributes significantly to water pollution. In 2015, the Canadian government estimated that the nation's paper industry accounted for 5% of the waste disposed into the nation's waterways. Data indicates that the production of 1 ton of paper contaminates nearly 20,000 gallons of water.

Importance of Recycled Paper

Recycled paper was created to reduce the environmental impact of paper manufacturing. Paper can be recycled about 5 to 7 times. Data indicates that using one ton of recycled paper can prevent 17 trees from being cut down.

Joseph Kiprop in Environment

How Many Trees Are Cut Down Each Day & Year?

According to the science journal Nature, approximately 42 million trees are cut down each day (or 15 billion trees each year). Thomas Crowther of the Institute of Ecology, Wageningen, Netherlands, who conducted this research emphasised how the “scale of human impact” on global tree destruction is “astonishing”.

It is estimated that the global number of trees has fallen by appromiately 46% in comparison to pre-agricultural activities (i.e. the start of human civilisation) around 12,000 years ago. Continuing to cut down so many trees on an annual basis is simply not sustainable.  

Trees play a vital role within the environment in the form of:

– Providing oxygen

– Helping to store carbon

– Helping to stabilize the soil 

– Provide essential wood supplies

Trees, the earth’s biggest plants, also help to absorb pollution from the air (it is estimated that just one tree has the capacity to absorb up to 1.7 kg of pollutants each year). Trees can also provide protection against solar radiation.

According to Philippe Ciais, a researcher at the Climate Change Research Unit of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (IPSL), “saying that the Amazon produces 20% of our oxygen is a bit exaggerated, it’s more like 10 to 12% because the photosynthesis generated in the oceans also contributes to the planet’s oxygen production.”

This is the case since the trees in the Amazon actually consume almost all of the oxygen that they produce as a result of photosynthesis, i.e. the process of transforming light energy into chemical energy in order to fuel organism activities.

How many trees are cut down for toilet paper?

According to the National Geographic, each day, almost “270,000 trees are either flushed or dumped in landfills”. It is estimated that approximately 10% of this number (i.e. 27,000 trees) is attributable to toilet paper use.

According to author Noelle Robbins, “increasing demand for toilet paper in developing countries is a critical factor in the impact that toilet paper manufacturers have on forests around the world.”

What are the eco-friendly alternatives to conventional toilet paper?

According to Backpacker, conventional toilet paper made from virgin trees can take between one to three years to decompose. Biodegradable toilet paper options such as bamboo toilet paper have the capacity to break decompose up to four times faster than conventional toilet paper.

Alternative environmentally friendly toilet paper materials include:

  • Bamboo toilet tissue
  • 100% organic cotton
  • 100% recycled bathroom tissue
  • Sugarcane toilet tissue

For the eco extremists out there, other options include:

  • Old newspapers
  • Leaves 
  • Cotton wool
  • Stones (used in times gone by by the Romans and Greeks! – Warning, make sure to sterilize between usages) 
  • With strong enough water pressure, one can shower directly after using the toilet to avoid toilet paper usage altogether

Existing ‘mainstream’ toilet paper brands ranked on the basis of eco-friendliness:

Source: NRDC

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World Paper Consumption Grows 400% - TOP Facts About Paper Production

The three largest paper-producing countries in the world are China, the USA and Japan

Scientists claim that more than 15 billion trees are cut down on the planet every year. Every year we lose 7.3 million hectares of forests: in a minute, a piece of forest disappears, which is equal to 20 football fields. At the same time, every fifth tree in the world is cut down for paper production.

According to the UN, the world consumption of paper over the past 40 years has increased by 400% - up to 400 million tons per year. More than half of this volume is the packaging of goods. A huge amount of material is consumed in offices and book publishing houses.

In total, 35% of all felled trees go to the production of paper products - this is almost 160 thousand km² of forest. Now more than 4 billion trees a year are needed to meet the needs of the paper industry on all continents.

In the meantime, new studies have shown that by 2030 the global consumption of paper and paperboard will increase to 482 million tons, demand will grow by about 1.1% per year.

Scientists have found out that most of all papers are used by lawyers, financiers and officials of various ranks. It is estimated that one worker in the "paper industry" uses up as many as 17 coniferous trees per year.

Each office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year and gives out 160 kilograms of waste paper, or 64 reams of A4 paper. The production of one such pack requires 8 kg of wood. At the same time, 45% of everything that is printed in the office on a printer is thrown away on the same day, which is more than a trillion sheets of office paper per year. Despite the fact that this material is recyclable, it accounts for about 26% of all waste in landfills in the world.

A total of 115 billion pages of office paper is turned into waste paper worldwide each year by copiers and printers.

24 trees are used to produce 1 ton of office paper. At the same time, 5 kg of wood is used to produce one book.

In addition, each inhabitant of Europe and North America consumes approximately 200 kg of paper annually, while in Africa this figure is 6.5 kg per person.

The three largest paper producing countries in the world are China, the USA and Japan. These three countries account for more than half of the world's paper production, while the leading paper importing and exporting countries are Germany and the United States. For example, 10,000 trees a year are cut down in China just for the production of holiday cards.

How paper production affects the environment

The pulp and paper industry is a major consumer of industrial energy and water. Thus, the pulp and paper industry ranks first in the world in terms of water consumption and fifth in terms of electricity consumption.

For example, it takes 250 liters of water to produce one pack of office paper. It takes 2 to 13 liters of water to make one sheet.

It takes 98 tons of other resources to produce one ton of paper, and the same amount of electricity is needed to produce one ton of steel.

In addition, the production process generates large amounts of pollutants and solid waste. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with paper production are three times those of all aviation in the world.

Thus, the pulp and paper industry is the fourth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions among all manufacturing industries. The industry accounts for more than 12% of all energy used in production.

About 200 g of CO2 is produced during the production, delivery and disposal of a newspaper. One National Geographic magazine contributes 800g of CO2 over its life cycle, and a paper towel contributes about 27g of CO2.

How cutting down trees affects the environment

After clear-cutting forests, serious changes occur: the fertile layer of the soil is washed away by rains, the level of nitrogen in the ground rises due to decaying roots, the debris left in the plot often causes fires.

"After clear-cut or ill-conceived cuttings, slopes lose their ability to retain moisture and create the danger of avalanches or mudflows. Precipitation flows freely into rivers, causing them to overflow and overflow," says Tatyana Timochko, head of the All-Ukrainian Ecological League.

Animals and birds suffer from deforestation, they simply have nowhere to live and nothing to eat. On the verge of extinction was the quetzal, or quetzal, a sacred bird revered by the Mayans and the Aztecs. Quetzals live in mountainous forests from southern Mexico to Panama, but due to logging, they are becoming very rare.

For example, tropical forests, which have become home to more than 50% of the species of animals and birds on Earth, occupied 14% of the planet, and now only 6%.

Saving paper is important

It is no coincidence that forests are called the lungs of the planet. Trees reduce the greenhouse effect, thanks to the forest on our planet there is an atmosphere suitable for life. One tree in its entire life is able to process a ton of carbon dioxide, producing about one hundred cubic meters of oxygen per year. This amount of oxygen is enough for a whole year for a small family.

80 kg of recycled waste paper is enough to save one tree from felling.

According to the Image and Information Management Association, reducing or recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees, 26,000 liters of water, 3 cubic meters of water. m of land, 240 liters of fuel and 4 thousand kWh of electricity.

Recently, however, the production and consumption of paper has only been growing - over the past 20 years, its consumption has increased by about 26%.

In particular, most of this paper is made from virgin pulp, and recycled paper accounts for 38% of the total supply of raw materials. Non-wood fibers from plants such as hemp or kenaf make up only 7%.

A billion trees in three years

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in June 2021 announced the ambitious Green Country environmental project, which provides for an increase in forest area in Ukraine by a million hectares in ten years. To this end, one billion trees are planned to be planted in the next three years. However, experts criticize such an initiative.

A billion trees in three years is 333. 3 million trees per year, about 27.8 million per month, 926 thousand per day, 38.6 thousand per hour, 643 per minute, or more than 10 trees per second.

Oleksiy Vasilyuk, head of the Ukrainian Environmental Group, noted that the idea of ​​planting a billion trees has only a beautiful wrapper, but its essence for people who know a lot about ecology sounds catastrophic. In addition to the questions of where to allocate this billion, when 56% of the land has been given over to arable farming, there is also concern that spontaneous mass planting will destroy fragile ecosystems.

How many trees are cut down in Ukraine

In four years, trees have been officially cut down in Ukraine in an area the size of Montenegro. Thus, in the period from 2017 to 2020, logging was officially carried out on an area of ​​13556 sq km or 1355600 ha.

The area of ​​Montenegro is 13,812 km², which is slightly more than the area of ​​official cuttings in Ukraine in four years.

In terms of years, the situation is as follows:

  • felling in 2017 on an area of ​​341 thousand hectares;
  • cuttings in 2018 on an area of ​​358. 3 thousand hectares;
  • cuttings in 2019 on an area of ​​360 thousand hectares;
  • cuttings in 2020 on an area of ​​296.3 thousand hectares.


However, in addition to the planned official cuttings, which are carried out in accordance with the documents, forests are also disappearing due to unofficial, illegal actions of people. In particular, in the period 2017-2021. illegal logging recorded:

  • in 2017 - 7052 cases with a volume of 26.1 thousand cubic meters. m,
  • in 2018 - 5384 cases - 17.7 thousand cubic meters. m,
  • in 2019 - 5040 cases - 118.2 thousand cubic meters. m,
  • in 2020 - 4261 cases - 54.6 thousand cubic meters. m,
  • for the first quarter of 2021 - 836 cases - 2.4 thousand cubic meters. meters.

Total for this period 219 thousand cubic meters. meters.

Based on these data, it is still impossible to calculate what proportion of trees in Ukraine are cut down illegally. After all, the statistics of official logging in the State Forest Agency are in the form of an area, in hectares. But the illegal statistics - volumes, in cubic meters.

Forests in Ukraine are also disappearing due to fires and natural disasters. Thus, the number and area of ​​fires in the forests of enterprises of the State Forest Agency for the period 2017-2021. amounted to:

  • in 2017 - 2371 cases with an area of ​​5474 ha,
  • in 2018 - 1297 cases on an area of ​​1367 ha,
  • in 2019 - 1261 cases on an area of ​​1065 ha,
  • in 2020 - 2598 cases on an area of ​​74623 ha.

At the same time, as a result of natural phenomena, namely windbreaks, in the forests of the enterprises of the State Forestry Agency, plantings were damaged on the area:

  • in 2019 - 22.5 thousand hectares,
  • in 2020 - 20.6 thousand hectares,
  • for the first quarter of 2021 - 15.6 thousand hectares.

why paper recycling is better than deforestation and which is more environmentally friendly - a bag of cellulose or plastic

Oleg Sabitov news editor

About 35% of all felled trees are used to make paper - that's almost 160,000 km² of forest. One tree is 16.67 packs of carbon paper or 8,333.3 A4 sheets, and 2 tons of wood is approximately equal to 680 kg of paper. At the same time, cutting down trees causes long-term damage to the environment - animals and birds lose their natural habitat, and the amount of absorbed carbon dioxide decreases. Hi-Tech has prepared a material for the Russian Paper Free Day about what it costs to produce paper, whether it can be reused and what is better for the environment - a paper or plastic bag.

Read Hi-Tech in

How much paper is used worldwide?

World paper consumption has increased by 400% over the past 40 years to 300 million tons per year. Now more than 4 billion trees a year are needed to meet the needs of the paper industry on all continents.

Most of this paper is made from virgin pulp, and recycled paper accounts for 38% of the total raw material supply. Non-wood fibers from plants such as hemp or kenaf make up only 7%.

The logging industry is huge - according to PwC, there are 245 wood and paper companies listed on stock exchanges worldwide, and non-public companies account for thousands. Most of them (136 out of 245 listed on exchanges) are located in China.

The three largest paper producing countries in the world are China, the USA and Japan. These three countries account for more than half of the world's paper production, while the leading paper importing and exporting countries are Germany and the United States.

According to AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), reducing or recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees, 26,000 liters of water, 3 cubic meters of water. m of land, 240 liters of fuel and 4 thousand kWh of electricity. However, in recent years, the production and consumption of paper has only been growing - over the past 20 years, its consumption has increased by about 26%.

How is paper made?

The path from production to delivery of a paper bag, book or newspaper to the store involves many steps: it requires a lot of resources and leads to great environmental damage.

At the first stage, the trees are marked and cut down, most often by clear-cutting. The consequence of this is a violation of the habitat of plants, animals and birds.

Forestry equipment then cuts down the trees, clears the trunk of branches, and loads the trees onto logging trucks, which take them to a storage facility to dry. This stage leads to the emission of a large amount of carbon dioxide, since all machinery runs on fossil fuels. In addition, deforestation even in a small area has a great impact on the entire ecological chain in the surrounding areas.

Sawn trees dry for three years: after that, the bark is removed from the trunks and sawn into squares 2.5 cm high. The wood is then treated with a mixture of limestone and hydrochloric acid - after several hours of boiling in this solution, the wood turns into cellulose .

The resulting raw material is washed and bleached - both steps require thousands of liters of clean water. The washing, bleaching and dyeing process uses a ratio of 1 part cellulose to 400 parts water.

All of these resources are only required to turn pulp into paper - and do not include the amount of electricity and fossil fuels that are used to transport raw materials, turn paper into a bag or book, and then transport it to the point of sale.

In addition, the production of paper causes great environmental damage due to the chemicals used in the process based on chlorine, sulfur, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide.

  • Chlorine. Chlorine and its compounds are used in the bleaching of wood pulp. This leads to the formation of a significant amount of dioxins, which are among the most toxic pollutants emitted by industry.
  • Organic materials . Process water discharged from pulp mills is rich in organic materials such as lignin and chlorinated organics. When released into surface water bodies or groundwater, these substances lead to a sharp increase in easily oxidized organic pollutants in the water.
  • Sulfur . Sulfur-based compounds are used in the sulfite process to produce wood pulp, from which pulp is then obtained. Sulfur dioxide is dangerous for people, animals, and plants - it dissolves in water, and its release into the air causes acid rain.
  • Other contaminants . In addition to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are emitted during paper production. The former causes acid rain, while the latter is the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. These toxic gases contribute to air pollution, and solids such as nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater contribute to water and soil pollution.

How is paper recycled?

Paper recycling results in 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than primary paper production. On the one hand, recycling can reduce the need for virgin pulp and tree felling. On the other hand, many different chemicals are also used in processing.

The paper must first be re-pulped, which usually requires a chemical process involving compounds such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium silicate, and sodium hydroxide to bleach and separate the pulp fibers. The fibers are then cleaned and sifted to make sure there is nothing on them to contaminate the papermaking process - and then washed to remove ink residue before being pressed and folded into paper as before.

At the same time, the recycling of a ton of newspapers reduces the landfill area by 3 m³. When paper decomposes in the ground, it produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. As a result, recycling paper is still much better than making it from fresh pulp.

Which is better, paper or plastic?

According to Franklin Associates' Life Cycle Analysis of Plastic and Paper Bags, plastic products result in fewer air emissions and require less energy to recycle than paper bags.

Unlike plastic bags, which are made from oil refinery waste, paper bags require deforestation to produce them. According to the study, in the second case, the production process requires the use of a higher concentration of toxic chemicals compared to the production of single-use plastic bags.

Paper bags also weigh more, which means they require more energy to transport and increase your carbon footprint. However, plastic bags take 450 to 1,000 years to decompose without recycling, while paper boxes and office paper take three months to two years, respectively.

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