What percentage of wood is harvested for paper and cardboard production? I need more or less recent data please. What I found is a 1999 publication that calculated that it's 42% excluding fuelwood. It's outdated. I also want a share of total harvested wood, not just industrial wood

1 Answer 1


You have to understand that paper production is rapidly declining.

In Finland, a country with large forestry industry, the rule of thumb is that about half of wood is used for sawlogs and about half of wood is pulpwood. Note "pulpwood" does not mean it's used for only paper production. It's also used for making pulp and cardboard packaging for products ordered online. As content is more and more read digitally on a computer, paper production is on the decline, but as online shopping is rapidly gaining traction, cardboard packaging production is on the increase. In the future pulpwood might also be used for creating biochar for permanently storing carbon away from the atmosphere.

I downloaded the 2020 annual reports of Stora Enso, UPM and Metsä Board, three large forestry industry companies.

Stora Enso in 2020 produced 2.7 million tonnes of consumer board, 1.3 million tonnes of containerboard, 0.5 million tonnes of corrugated and other packaging solutions, 2.6 million tonnes of market pulp and 3.1 million tonnes of paper. Based on this, 3.1 million tonnes out of 10.2 million tonnes is paper. So about 30% of pulpwood used by Stora Enso is going to paper.

UPM in 2020 is more paper-heavy: it produces 2 million tonnes of specialty papers, 6.4 million tonnes of communication papers and 3.7 million tonnes of biorefining outputs. So about 70% of its pulpwood goes to paper.

Metsä Board, a far smaller company, makes 3.2 million tonnes of cardboard and pulp. Zero paper in that company.

So we can conclude that out of 10.2+12.1+3.2 million tonnes (25.5 million tonnes) of pulpwood product outputs, 11.5 million tonnes is paper. That's 45% paper. Note not all of this is newspaper-grade paper or office printing paper, the paper also includes labels for product packaging too.

Therefore, I'd say that about 45% of pulpwood goes to making paper, but that share is reducing rapidly. Because about half of harvested wood is pulpwood, that means about 22.5% of all harvested wood goes to paper. The share of paper is rapidly decreasing.


I actually meant "paper products", i.e. both paper and cardboard.

Currently, practically all of pulpwood is being used for paper products such as both paper and cardboard, and paper towels and toilet paper. The other uses such as textile fibers for clothing and biochar for permanently storing carbon away from the atmosphere are emerging and their share currently is practically zero. So if we can assume that about 50% of all harvested wood is pulpwood, then about 50% of harvested wood is used for paper products. So your figure of 42% is not far away from that. Your publication is not outdated: the only change in forestry industry is between 1999 and 2021 is that in 1999, paper had a much larger share and paper towels, toilet paper and cardboard a smaller share.

Finland is probably not representative of the global forestry

Actually, I have to disagree. Two of the companies whose annual reports I cited (Stora Enso and UPM) are major global companies with operations all around the world, despite the fact that the headquarters are in Finland. So they represent a significant share of the world forestry market.

Also, a significant share of currently existing forests on this planet are boreal taiga forests, similar to forests in Finland. Two major countries with big boreal taiga forests are Canada and Russia. The central European forests have been cut away long time ago, and the land is used for farming there. So Finnish forests are very representative of the economically utilized world forests.

Also the fundamentals of forestry are similar all around the world. When you have harvested an entire forest, you plant a new forest. Young trees can have a high density so you plant a high density forest. Then at some stage when the forest has grown a bit, the trees are becoming so large they are competing for resources, yet not so large they would be useful for sawlogs. So you do a reduction harvest, harvesting away less viable trees (that are entirely used for pulpwood because they are too small for sawlogs). You let the forest grow more and you do a second reduction harvest, this time again giving you only pulpwood. Then at the end of the life cycle of the forest, most of the trees are useful for sawlogs, there may be little bit of trees here and there that are only useful for pulpwood. However, even though most of the trees are useful for sawlogs, only the bottom parts of their trunks are useful for it. The tree tops are narrow and thus can't be used for sawlogs, so they are pulpwood. These two effects (little bit of trees here and there not useful for sawlogs and tree tops not useful of sawlogs) mean about two thirds of the total solid volume is sawlogs and one third of total solid volume is pulpwood. You want to use as much as you can as sawlogs as sawlogs have a price of 60 EUR/m3 whereas pulpwood has a price of 20 EUR/m3. When you take into account the earlier reduction harvests that gave you entirely pulpwood, you can conclude that about half of the total harvested volume is pulpwood and about half of the total harvested volume is sawlogs.

How forestry differs between different temperature areas is that boreal taiga forests are cold, so the tree species are mainly pine and spruce (and perhaps birch) and they grow so slowly that time between terminal harvests is between 70 and 120 years. In warmer areas, different tree species are used, and the trees grow faster so time between terminal harvests is far shorter. Yet the fundamentals are the same: you want to use as much as you can as sawlogs and minimize the produced pulpwood amount (yet you still get half pulpwood!) and you have to do several reduction harvests to remove less viable trees as pulpwood to give more viable trees enough resources to grow bigger.

  • I actually meant "paper products", i.e. both paper and cardboard. Finland is probably not representative of the global forestry Dec 26, 2021 at 12:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.