Second in the series of looking at the benefits of recycling is: Recycling Paper

Meeting and talking with different people over the last few years, I’ve been surprised, and actually quite astounded, to discover that several people don’t recycle their paper. After all, “Its only paper. Is it really that big of a deal.”

Let’s look at how much paper is being used:

• According to, Americans use approximately 90 million tons of paper each year in the US; that’s 700 lbs per person; only half of this is recycled typically through commercial business recycling programs.

• We throw away about 1 billion trees’ worth of paper each year; enough to heat 50 million American homes for 20 years.

We’re obviously using a lot of paper, so is it a big deal to recycle that paper?

• According to the EPA (2013) recycling one ton of paper* saves:

-- 17 trees

-- 380 gallons of oil

-- 7,000 gallons of water

-- Enough energy to power the average home in the US for six months

-- 275 lbs of sulfur

-- 350 lbs of limestone

-- 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space

• These 17 trees, which have been saved can absorb 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, annually. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 lbs of carbon dioxide.

• Producing recycled paper vs virgin paper requires 60 percent less energy

• Recycling a single run of the New York Times would save about 75,000 trees.

• If Americans just recycled their newspapers it would save 250 million trees each year.

• Building a paper mill, which uses recycled paper costs 50 – 80 percent less than a paper mill designed to use virgin pulp.

• The latest EPA data shows that in 2013, more than 63 percent of the total paper used was recovered for recycling in the US.

• The organization, Keep America Beautiful reports that, “…over 73 percent of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, insulation, or exported.”

• Other recycled paper is made into paper, paper towels, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products. Additionally, egg cartons and other molded packaging, compost and kitty litter are made with recycled paper.

*(one ton paper = approx. the equivalent of one of those paper bins you see placed in parking lots, half full)

The average American household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper each year (usually packaging and junk mail). One way that’s easy and painless to recycle paper at home is to place a paper grocery bag by your trash can. As mail is sorted simply stand by the ‘paper trash’ and toss unwanted mail items in the paper bag. When it’s full, it goes directly to the recycling bin (of course, if it has credit card offers or other identity information, shred them first).

Recycling paper offers the environment, energy and natural resources many benefits. I hope this helps you to take note (so to speak) and begin paper-recycling at home, and maybe the office, too! Remember to keep thinking GREEN!

Some information for this article was retrieved from:


-- Lynn Youngblood is the Executive Director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Reach her at