How many sheets of paper can be produced from a single tree?

Tree growing out of shredded paper
How many sheets of paper can be made from a single tree? kyoshino / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A single pine tree, approximately 1 foot (0.3 meters) in diameter and 60 feet (18.3 meters) tall, can produce about 80,500 sheets of paper.
  • The wood from a pine tree becomes pulp with a yield of about 50 percent, due to the removal of knots, lignin and other unusable parts.
  • These estimations come from rough calculations, including the weight of lumber and a standard ream of photocopier paper.

It is probably hard to get an exact number, but here is how I would start answer to this question: First, we have to define what a "tree" is. Is it a giant redwood tree or a little weeping willow? Most paper is made from pine trees, so I went out in the woods and looked at some pines.

Most are about 1 foot in diameter and 60 feet tall. Ignoring taper, that's about 81,430 cubic inches of wood:


pi * radius2 * length = volume

3.14 * 62 * (60 * 12) = 81,430

3.14 * 62 * (60 * 12) = 81,430

I have a 2x4-foot piece of lumber in the backyard. It weighs about 10 pounds and contains 504 cubic inches of wood. That means a pine tree weighs roughly 1,610 pounds (81430/504 * 10).

I know that in manufacturing paper, the wood is turned into pulp. The yield is about 50 percent -- about half of the tree is knots, lignin and other stuff that is no good for paper. So that means a pine tree yields about 805 pounds of paper. I have a ream of paper for a photocopier here and it weighs about 5 pounds and contains 500 sheets (you often see paper described as "20-pound stock" or "24-pound stock" -- that is the weight of 500 sheets of 17" x 22" paper). So, using these measurements, a tree would produce (805/5 * 500) 80,500 sheets of paper.

These are all fairly rough estimations, and I weighed things on a bathroom scale, but you get the general idea. See the next page for learn more.


Frequently Asked Questions

What factors can affect the number of sheets of paper a single tree produces?
The type of tree, its size and age and the production process can all significantly affect how many sheets of paper a single tree can produce.
Can paper production be more sustainable?
Yes, by using recycled materials, improving the efficiency of the pulping process and sourcing wood from sustainably managed forests, paper production can be more sustainable.