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Recycling paper saves trees


Updated: 2008/02/10 PM 10:31:07   Comments (1)

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Most of the Trees Harvested For Paper Are Planted For That Purpose and Replaced

"Does the use of recycled paper save trees?  Surprisingly it may not save trees - but it uses their fibre more efficiently. Trees are often planted and cut as a crop, for other purposes than papermaking. However, recycling does make the best use of the yield of the tree by extending the life span of its fibres."[1]

"Papermaking uses a natural, renewable resource—trees! The first step in papermaking is harvesting the trees. Paper companies plant trees specifically for papermaking, much like an apple farmer grows apple trees to produce apples. If one tree is cut down, another is planted to replace it."[2]

"State and federal recycling legislation is intended to address the landfill problem, not save trees. Still, to many people, recycling has come to mean saving trees. There is a company in San Francisco, for instance, called Conservatree Paper Co., that sells nothing but recycled paper."[3]

"A common misperception is that the main benefit of recycling paper is to save trees. While this is a feature, most paper now comes from sustainable wood supplies and from trees that are grown and harvested specifically for this purpose. As the trees are harvested, new trees are planted to replace those cut down. Paper is also made from parts of a tree that are unusable by other industries such as construction. Unlike other recycled products, some virgin wood pulp needs to be included in recycled paper. As paper is recycled, so the fibers get broken down each time, resulting eventually in fibers that are too short to use. Therefore a certain proportion of new wood pulp needs to be introduced each time. This means that there will always be a need for new trees to support the paper process, even with maximum recycling."[4]

"It is not well known outside the paper industry that a great deal of wood-fiber paper is made without having to cut down any trees at all. The pulp is manufactured from lumber and sawmill residues. The proportion varies with geographical area, but it is highest in the mountain and pacific states, where pulp mills get over 80% of their fiber from these residues. The national average is 30%. If you consider that about a quarter of all paper and board is made from recycled fiber to start with, this means that only half of all paper and board in this country is made directly from trees."[5]  

The Forest Preservation Argument Usually Ignores Plantations

Today, 90% of paper pulp is made of wood. Paper production accounts for about 43% of harvested wood,[6] and represents 1.2% of the world's total economic output.[7] Recycling of newsprint saves about 1 tonne of wood while recycling 1 tonne (1.1 ton) of printing or copier paper saves slightly more than 2 tonnes of wood. This is because kraft pulping requires twice as much wood since it removes lignin to produce higher quality fibers than mechanical pulping processes. Relating tonnes of paper recycled to the number of trees not cut is meaningless, since tree size varies tremendously and is the major factor in how much paper can be made from how many trees.[8] Trees raised specifically for pulp production account for 16% of world pulp production, old growth forests 9% and second- and third- and more generation forests account for the balance.[6] Most pulp mill operators practice reforestation to ensure a continuing supply of trees. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies paper made from trees harvested according to guidelines meant to ensure good forestry practices.[9] It has been estimated that recycling half the world’s paper would avoid the harvesting of 20 million acres (80,000 km²) of trees.[10]

Some Problems With Plantations

"While tree farms or plantations help feed the demand for wood, they can't provide the plant and animal diversity found in natural forests. Plus, according to a 1996 report from the U.S. Forest Service, the rate of harvest for softwood trees in the southern United States outpaced growth for the first time since 1953."[6]

"Trees have only been used on a large scale for
papermaking since the second half of the 19th
century. Provided they are grown in a
sustainable and ecologically responsible way,
trees are a valuable source of raw material for
papermaking.. but there are many areas where trees are
grown as a 'cash crop', often in mono-culture
fashion (one species of tree). Fertilisers,
herbicides, insecticides and other pesticides
are used to ensure a 'healthy' crop with
consequent damage to the environment
..and there is a limit to how much natural or
original forest we want to see turned over to
'farmed' forest..and in areas where clear-felling is practiced,
it can lead to soil erosion.
Don't trust the label 'made from sustainable
forests' at face value. To be sure, specify
papers made with FSC (Forest Stewardship
Council) certified content."[11]

In contrast to a naturally regenerated forest, plantations are typically grown as even-aged monocultures, primarily for timber production.

  • Plantations are usually monocultures. That is, the same species of tree is planted across a given area, whereas a natural forest would contain a far more diverse range of tree species.
  • Plantations may include tree species that would not naturally occur in the area. They may include unconventional types such hybrids and genetically modified trees. Since the primary interest in plantations is to produce wood or pulp, the types of trees found in plantations are those that are best-suited to industrial applications. For example, pine, spruce and eucalyptus are widely planted far beyond their natural range because of their fast growth rate, tolerance of poor or degraded agricultural land and potential to produce large volumes of raw material for industrial use.
  • Plantations are always young forests in ecological terms. Typically, trees grown in plantations are harvested after 10 to 60 years, rarely up to 120 years. This means that the forests produced by plantations do not contain the type of growth, soil or wildlife typical of old-growth natural forest ecosystems. Most conspicuous is the absence of decaying dead wood, a crucial component of natural forest ecosystems.

In the 1970s, Brazil began to establish high-yield, intensively managed, short rotation plantations. These types of plantations are sometimes called fast-wood plantations or fiber farms and often managed on a short-rotation basis, as little as 5 to 15 years. They are becoming more widespread in South America, Asia and other areas. The environmental and social impacts of this type of plantation has caused them to become controversial. In Indonesia, for example, large multi-national pulp companies have harvested large areas of natural forest without regard for regeneration. From 1980 to 2000, about 50% of the 1.4 million hectares of pulpwood plantations in Indonesia have been established on what was formerly natural forest land.

The replacement of natural forest with tree plantations has also caused social problems. In some countries, again, notably Indonesia, conversions of natural forest are made with little regard for rights of the local people. Plantations established purely for the production of fiber provide a much narrower range of services than the original natural forest for the local people. India has sought to limit this damage by limiting the amount of land owned by one entity and, as a result, smaller plantations are owned by local farmers who then sell the wood to larger companies. Some large environmental organizations are critical of these high-yield plantations and are running an anti-plantation campaign, notably the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace.


  1. http://www.napm.org.uk/recycled_paper.htm
  2. http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/saving/recycling/solidwaste/paperandglass.htm
  3. http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/abbey/ap/ap04/ap04-5/ap04-508.html
  4. http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/How_Does_Recycling_Paper_Help_Landfills
  5. The American Paper Institute, "API 1990, Fiber Sources for Paper/Paperboard/ Wood Pulp Manufacture," p. 25; and from PIMA Magazine, Oct. 1990, p. 22.1
  6. Martin, Sam (2004). Paper Chase. Ecology Communications, Inc.. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  7. Trends and Current Status of the Contribution of the Forestry Sector to National Economies. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2004). Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  8. Marcot, Bruce G. (1992). How Many Recycled Newspapers Does It Take to Save A Tree?. The Ecology Plexus. Retrieved on 2007-09-22.
  9. [http://www.fsccanada.org/certification.htm Certification Tracking products from the forest to the shelf!]. Retrieved on 2007-09-21.
  10. [Source: EarthWorks Group. 1990. “The Recycler’s Handbook”. Berkeley, CA: The EarthWorks Press]
  11. Environment Myths BBC Retrieved on 2008-02-06 [PDF format]
Paper recycling. (2008, February 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:38, February 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Paper_recycling&oldid=189872655

Plantation. (2008, January 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:05, February 11, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plantation&oldid=188164620

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By: greentextbooks on 2009/10/17 PM 11:50:27.

I would suggest using GreenTextbooks.org Save Money, Save The Planet GreenTextbooks.org specializes in the recycling of textbooks, DVDs, CDs. Buying used textbooks not only saves you money, but cuts down on greenhouse gases caused by the manufacturing of new textbooks. With GreenTextbooks.org you're not only saving trees, you are saving some green.

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