Snap Judgment #17: Those Trees had it Coming!
SNAPPLE FACT #705: Every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees
Recycling: We've all known about it since we were kids (for the most part, I assume). Recycling paper is often particularly harped on because 1. It's relatively easy to do compared to glass or cardboard, and 2. Because of the association with trees. Trees are the arguably the biggest, easiest to identify symbol of nature, and the imagery of trees being chopped down and bulldozed en masse by "evil companies" is a very tried and true tactic for building support for ecological causes (think: "Save the Rainforests" or FernGully). So a claim like this is naturally going to engender a few reactions.
Well, it's true! We have a few sources and some interesting other stats to accompany them. According to The University of Southern Indiana, the average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year (mostly through packages and junk mail) and the average American uses seen trees a year in paper, wood, and other tree-based products. According to Recycling Revolution, the 17 trees you can save from recycling can absorb up to "250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year," while, "burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide." According to the EPA, recycling one ton of paper would "save enough energy to power the average American home for six months, save 7,000 gallons of water, save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, [and] reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE)."
I started looking into the arguments of how the paper industry planting/using trees factors in, but that argument got pretty political emotional very quickly so I haven't found any great sources that show the net cost/benefit for that. If you have any info we'd love to see it! Otherwise we may have to revisit this...