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Sunday, July 27, 2014

How much paper can be made from a typical tree?





It’s tough to arrive at a good number, due to variables such as the density of different kinds of wood, the size of trees, and the type of pulping process, etc.  A rule of thumb is that a cord of hardwood (128 cubic feet) weighing two tons will produce 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of paper. So to arrive at the number of trees needed for a ton, I imagine an “average” tree. It has an average 8-inch diameter trunk and a usable height of about 45 feet. Applying the simple πr2 formula to get the cross-sectional area and multiplying it by the height, we discover that this “average” tree contains roughly 10 cubic feet of wood. So it would take about 8 of these trees to produce between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of paper,

Since a typical 500-sheet packet of the paper weighs 5 pounds, that’s 10,000 to 20,000 sheets per tree, which doesn’t sound all that bad. That’s why the most effective way to shock your colleagues is 1) to address the volume of paper unnecessarily used in the first place, and 2) note the vast amount that gets wasted instead of recycled.

 The United States produced about 20,700,000 tons of this paper last year, which by my reckoning (see below) takes 55 to 110 million trees, ut we only recycle about 11,000,000 tons, or 53 percent, according to the American Forest and Paper Association. (Recycling is vital because about a third of new paper comes from recycled paper. Another third is from waste such as sawdust and scrap from lumber mills, according to the EPA.) Data from last year do indicate that we used a third less paper than when the “paperless” office went into high gear 20 years ago. But even this statistic might say more about the recent economic mess than anything else, because in 2007 when the economy was hot, we went through more printing paper than ever.

An ode to tree sap    At least 50 bird species eat tree sap. Woodpeckers and Hummingbirds readily come to mind.  Cardinals, Kinglets, Warblers, Waxwings, Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches (all of which frequent north Texas) like tree sap too. They like it because it’s sweet, and often has ants in it – sort of a smoothie for birds.

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

 





 

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