Lynn Youngblood: Recycling paper makes a big difference

Staff Writer
The Examiner

Talking with different people over the last few years, I’ve been surprised, and actually quite astounded, to discover that several of them don’t recycle their paper because they don’t think it’s worth the effort. After all, it’s only paper. Is it really that big of a deal?

We use approximately 85 million tons of paper each year in the U.S. That’s 680 lbs per person. We throw away about 1 billion trees’ worth of paper each year, enough to heat 50 million American homes for 20 years.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one ton of paper saves:

• 17 trees. Those trees would have absorbed 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, annually. Burning that same ton of paper creates 1,500 lbs of carbon dioxide.

• 380 gallons of oil.

• 7,000 gallons of water.

• 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power the average home in the US for five months.

• 275 lbs of sulfur.

• 350 lbs of limestone.

• 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.

If Americans just recycled their newspapers it would save 250 million trees annually. Recycling a single run of The New York Times would save about 75,000 trees.

Building a paper mill that uses recycled paper costs 50 to 80% less than a paper mill designed to use virgin pulp. Producing recycled paper vs virgin paper requires 60% less energy.

The organization Keep America Beautiful reports that “…over 73% 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.

The average American household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper each year (usually packaging and junk mail). One way I’ve found to make it easy and painless to recycle paper at our home is to place a paper grocery bag by our trash can. As I’m sorting mail I simply stand by the “paper trash” and toss unwanted mail items in the paper bag.

Recycling paper offers the environment, energy and natural resources many benefits. I hope this helps you begin a paper recycling program at home, and maybe the office too! Remember to keep thinking GREEN!

Some information from

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at