How many trees are used to make paper each year

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 For One Piece Of Paper?

Journals, notebooks for school, official documents, dictionaries, novels, handwritten notes; paper is everywhere in our lives. Even as technology becomes the norm, we see paper products everywhere we go.

One tree makes over 8,000 pieces of paper while approximately 1/500th of a tree is cut down for every piece of paper. Americans use over 850,000,000 pieces of paper per year, equalling over 106,000 trees. Most paper is produced from softwood trees such as pine trees, spruce trees and fir trees.

Keep reading to discover more about the paper industry. What you learn may surprise you!

Just to add – when you shop using links from Tree Journey, we may earn affiliate commissions if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

How Is Paper Made From A Tree?

There’s no doubting most paper is made from wood pulp. Maybe you will remember an elementary school teacher telling you to write in pencil to erase your mistakes so it would sacrifice no more trees than necessary. Just us? Hmm, okay. 

Anyway, the process is quite simple, and it’s old. It is derived from one created in China back in the 100’s A.D. and has evolved into the paper, and the processes used today.

How Is Wood Pulp Made Into Paper?

To start things off, raw wood gets processed into pulp. Then comes the combination of wood fibers and chemicals, which can happen in one of two ways.

Mechanical Pulping 

Literature from Princeton University tells us softwood trees lend themselves better to mechanical pulps. The process grinds down wood fibers more than the chemical method will. 

Therefore, the paper produced from mechanical pulping, the less common of the wood pulping methods, is a thinner, weaker paper. Think of newspapers or phone books (talk about something old), and you will get a sense of the thin type of paper created through this process. 

Chemical Pulping

A more common method, chemical pulping, uses both soft and hardwoods and creates most of the paper products we know and love today.

Much of the naturally glue-like substance found in pulp is eliminated through this process, which results in a much stronger paper.

Everything from fine printing paper to paperboard and writing paper, found in journals and notebooks, is a byproduct of the chemical pulping process. Since wood fibers are not simply being ground down, there is a wider range of paper types you can create using chemicals to break down the fibers.

What Comes Next In The Paper-Making Process?

The initial pulp is very wet and needs to be dried to create sheets of paper. 

Funny enough, this part of the process has changed little since the ancient Chinese practices that spearheaded the idea of turning wood into paper.  

Wood pulp is sprayed onto large screens, which then go through many rounds of drying processes. First, the pulp is squeezed until it is about halfway wet and appears to be more of a damp paper than a liquid pulp. 

Eventually, the pulp gets pressed to remove even more water, and the paper is truly coming into its final form.

To create different textures, thicknesses, and tones, the paper may go through different treatment processes to arrive at its desired state.

Finally, the paper product is rolled into huge reels of paper before being sent off to be cut and organized. Paper can turn into journals, envelopes in which we buy printer paper, and so many more things. Maybe the lined paper that was treated becomes spiral notebooks for children to practice their alphabet, and blank white paper is waiting for official statements and apostilles to be sent between governments. 

The opportunities are endless for this product made from a tree not so long ago.

Can Paper Be Made from Any Tree?

As we briefly mentioned above, while discussing the pulping processes, hardwood and softwood are turned into paper.

Most of the wood that gets turned into pulp comes from softwood trees. These trees are coniferous trees such as pine, spruce, and fir, among others.

Coniferous simply means ‘cone-producing’ and it is these types of seed-producing trees that earn their classification as softwood trees. 

Essentially, however, yes. Certain types of wood may have wood fibers that break down into a pulp better (hence softwood trees being the preference), but all wood can technically be turned into pulp to create paper.

Which Type of Trees Are Commonly Used To Create Paper?

The Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helps to provide a great snapshot into what types of trees are commonly used to create paper.

Softwoods like pines, spruces, hemlocks and firs stand among other conifers such as bald cypress, Douglas-fir, larches, red cedar, white cedars, and redwood to create the portfolio of trees most commonly turned into paper.

While softwoods are the majority, a good 85% or so of the trees selected for this process, it leaves us with a solid amount of hardwood trees also being utilized. 

Hardwood trees that turn into paper include poplar, birch, maple, beech, sweetgum, tupelo, and many others. Unlike paper made from softwood, we typically use wood produced by these trees for hardboards, materials inside shipping boxes, and other less ‘refined’ uses.

How Long Does It Take To Make Paper From Trees?

Well, if we start from the beginning…

Growing trees can take between 10 and 20 years just to have a reasonably sized organism that can produce enough pulp to create paper. 

Turning wood into pulp and pulp into paper, however, can take significantly less time. It is possible to re-create this process in short periods if you have the right materials.

How Much Paper Is Wasted Every Year?

Middle Georgia State University tells us that the average American family throws away up to 13,000 separate pieces of paper per year. Mostly packaging, junk mail, old notebooks, and other undesired paper products, it is unbelievable how quickly that adds up.

According to the University of Southern Indiana, Americans use over 850,000,000 tons of paper per year. We just tried to convert it to pounds for you and got a number wider than the screen, but it is nearly 700 pounds of paper per person. Certainly, not all of that paper gets to stick around, right?

How Much Paper Can One Tree Produce?

One tree makes over 8,000 sheets of paper, which sounds like a lot but is less than you’d expect. 

Think about a copier case of paper, which normally has about 10 reams (packs of paper) at about 500 pieces each. You are already at 5,000 pages and over half of a tree was used to create that single box of paper. 

If you work in an administrative office, school, or any other facility heavily reliant on paper usage, the number of trees used to create the paper you are using could be much more than you expect.  

Suddenly, those elementary school teachers telling us not to waste paper don’t seem so off-base. 

Let’s circle back to the amount of paper an average American family throws away a year, just in junk and packaging materials. When it’s all said and done, over a tree and a half is wasted.

What Is Tree-Free Paper Made from?

Using tree-free paper is a great way to work toward the future and sustainable steps. 

Using fewer trees contributes to lessening deforestation, not to mention that some of these tree-free options are pretty darn cool!

CalRecycle informs us that woodless paper sources fall into two categories:

  1. Crops that are specifically intended to produce paper
  2. Residue from agricultural crops also repurposed into paper

If you have been searching for woodless paper options, alternatives to the norm, this section is just for you!


This tropical plant was traditionally used for sacks, ropes, and other sorts of cords. Now, however, it is being used as a treeless way to create more paper. 

This plant is also used to create paper’s distant cousin- canvas. This is not surprising, as sacks and canvas have similarly textured patterns, and you can use the fibers in similar ways. 

Kenaf has become more sought after in recent years for its properties and uses beyond paper-making. Only time will tell if this becomes a staple in the paper world.


Hemp has become very popular in recent years for its versatility. 

Seen in everything from soaps and hair care products to being the primary material in backpacks and clothing items, this one does it all, including paper!

Hemp crops grow exponentially quicker than trees do, and they can produce a pulp that results in a similar paper all the same.

The infrastructure has not developed completely, meaning it is a bit more expensive to create paper using hemp. However, this process is so much better for the environment and all the trees involved.

Currently, hemp paper’s use falls under specialty use most often, as opposed to commercial production for things like notebook paper or printer paper. Hopefully, as this option advances, we see hemp paper more readily available.

Straw From Rice, Wheat, Or Rye

More agriculturally focused crops often discard some of the straw growing on parts of the plant. The part humans rarely eat. 

We often give this straw to animals, but there are so many other ways to use this part of the plant. 

The fiber in straw is comparable to that of wood fiber, and the pulp is used to hand-make paper in a unique, eco-friendly manner.

This is not a new concept, however, and is a standard practice already in many Asian countries that emphasize using all of their resources.

Essentially, instead of burning or plowing most of the straw from agricultural crops, it could instead replace a fair amount of the tree-based paper we so often use at this point.


Coconut? Yes, coconut!

But coconut is not at all similar to the wood of a tree or the fibers in straw or kenaf!

This may be true, but the husk of a coconut has plenty of fibers you can use to create something useful. Instead of discarding the husk of a coconut, once the water and fruit have been removed, it can help to produce a very useful, thick textured paper.

Contrary to how newspaper paper works, as a flimsy product, coconut paper could prove quite strong for projects where you use markers or water-based writing utensils. 

You may have even seen this type of paper before and had no idea what was behind the final product. 

The hair between the fruit and husk of a coconut is the perfect texture to create paper. When pieces of the hair remain, they add dark spots to the paper, which can give it a worn, authentic feel. 

If the overall ‘vibe’ of the paper doesn’t matter to you, these little strands of fortitude highly reinforce your paper.  


Yes, you read that right, too. Even crushed stone can turn into a sort of pulp-like substance. This substance can also create paper.

Stone paper notebooks and products like this Pictostone Executive Notebook are making a lot of headway in the journal space these days. 

The paper is smooth but somehow manages not to smudge. It is both strong but has a softer appearance, like if we combine the strength of coconut paper with the look of tree-based paper and the softness of hemp paper. It’s a 3-for-1 you can get behind!

We might go as far as to say this is the next big thing in the paper, at least for those who prefer handwritten notes jotted down in planners or the feeling of putting pen to paper as a way to create artistic works like poetry or short stories. 

Knowing your paper comes from one of the myriad origins, other than trees, is not only a good feeling but a cool one. It is amazing how many of our natural resources can create such a similar product, and in such different ways.

That’s A Wrap!

Now that you have learned a little more about what goes into the making of paper, how paper is made, and other ways to create tree-free paper, we hope you are intrigued. 

Try some tree paper alternatives, and see what you think! It’s a fun way to experiment with something we use oh so often in daily life, all while helping the planet, too!

We sincerely hope that you enjoyed this piece. As you continue along your tree journey of learning and exploring, take a moment to consider how you can help save some of those trees we all love so much.

For now, though, we will see you next time. Thanks for reading!


Fratzl, P. (2018). Wood made denser and stronger.

Gurav, S. P., Bereznitski, A., Heidweiller, A., & Kandachar, P. V. (2003). Mechanical properties of paper-pulp packaging. Composites Science and Technology, 63(9), 1325-1334.

M’hamdi, A. I., Kandri, N. I., Zerouale, A. , Blumberga, D., & Gusca, J. (2017). Life cycle assessment of paper production from treated wood. Energy Procedia, 128, 461-468.

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.

How to reduce paper consumption without giving up paper books? 7 Simple Changes - Services on

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Do you know how much wood is in the book you were holding today? books. And how many trees do you need to cut down to produce a whole edition? At the same time, 1 tree during the year produces enough oxygen to breathe 2 people. Why not save at least a few?


How to do it?

You can continue to read your favorite book, and then another and another . .. but at the same time reduce the negative impact of modern consumption on the destruction of forest areas. And I'm not talking about e-books, because many, including myself, are more pleasant to hold the physical, paper-smelling products of a printing press in their hands. I suggest that you share the book you have already read with other people, and in return take the book you would like to buy for free. According to various studies, about 530 million trees are cut down annually in the world, a quarter of them for paper production.

Although 82% of the forest is restored naturally or with the help of human resources, every year we irretrievably lose 95 million trees, or about 95 thousand hectares of forest, or a source of oxygen that would be enough for 190 million people. By exchanging books that have already been printed before, you can save about 15% of the lost forest every year. Good start, don't you agree?

But that's not all. We at BookShare Club have identified 7 ways to save paper that have become our healthy habit.

1. Do not take free advertising newspapers and coupons from promoters and distribution points in supermarkets, because demand always creates supply. The less we read this useless waste paper, the less it will be produced. In addition, now there are many mobile applications that allow you to get discounts, bonuses and information: some businesses have their own, others have Letyshops and the like.

2. Do you still receive various paper catalogs in the mail? - Just discard them and find analogues on the Internet. After all, almost everything is now duplicated online. And if a certain magazine is not online, you can always find analogues from more modern editions.

3. Reduce paperwork. Transfer communication with customers, bosses, partners to modern technologies: e-mail, instant messengers, electronic document management services. For example, to sign many contracts, we use the service, we have long transferred team communication to e-mail and telegram. You can adopt the same tools or choose from a variety of analogues. Print on paper only the most necessary documents, but here, too, try to use both sides of each sheet.

4. You can also ditch paper handkerchiefs and towels in favor of washable ones, but this will increase the consumption of washing powder, which is also not very good for the environment. It is important to find a balance here.

5. Do you like to read before going to bed and have a few books already read on your shelves? - Go to BookShare Club, share them with other members of the club and choose something new for yourself.

6. You can pay utility bills and taxes online. All checks and receipts will be sent to your e-mail, thereby saving kilograms of paper. In addition, many banking and independent online payment systems offer bonuses for their use: no commissions, cashbacks, discounts and installments for the purchase of other goods for regular customers.

7. I keep a daily to-do list and write down dozens of ideas and thoughts.

Learn more