Infograph demonstrating how widely paper usage varies from continent to continent. Sources: RISI, US Census Bureau, United Nations, Statistics Canada. Infograph © Environmental Paper Network

The Facts - Paper consumption and its impacts

Facts about the paper industry and consumption:

Fact sheet on junk mail and climate change

  • Total paper consumption in North America has declined, though North American paper consumption remains a major driver of forest destruction (1). 
  • Overall global paper consumption is on the rise (1).
  • North Americans still consume more paper per capita – upwards of 500 lbs. annually – than anyone else on earth (1).
  • 40% of the world's industrial logging goes into making paper, and this is expected to reach 50% in the near future (2).
  • Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries, using over 12% of all energy in the industrial sector.  The paper and pulp industry is also the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the manufacturing sector (3).
  • Though paper recovery rates in the US have increased in recent years, paper still represents one of the biggest components of solid waste in landfills – 26 million tons (or 16% of landfill solid waste) in 2009.  When paper decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide (1).

Facts about Junk Mail in the US:

  • Junk mail in the US accounts for over 100 million pieces of mail each year – about 20% of all mailed delivered in the world
  • Every year, American households receives a total of 104.7 billion pieces of junk mail, or 848 pieces of junk mail per household, which requires 6.5 million tons of paper
  • Approximately 44% of junk mail goes to landfills unopened

More junk mail facts >>

1. Environmental Paper Network. (2011). The State of the Paper Industry 2011. Retrieved from
2. Abromovitz, Janet. (1998). Taking a Stand: Cultivating a New Relationship with the World's Forests. Washington DC: Worldwatch Institute.

3. Environmental Paper Network. (2007). The State of the Paper Industry 2007. Retrieved from

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