Students calculate how much of the Amazon would be required to print the Internet

Students from the The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science have calculated how much paper would be required to physically print the Internet as we know it - and have worked out that despite the Internet’s enormous size less than 1 per cent of the Amazon rainforest’s trees would be required.

In order to work out how much paper would be required to print the Internet, students Evangeline Walker and George Harwood investigated how many trees would be needed, using the Amazon rainforest as an example given its unprecedented scale on Earth. Situated in South America, the Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest on Earth, spanning 5.5 million square kilometres and housing approximately 400 billion trees.

To establish how many trees would be needed to print the required number of paper pages, the students worked on the assumption that all trees within the rainforest can be used to make paper, given the large amount of trees that can be used for this purpose. They also worked on the assumption that it would be possible to obtain approximately 17 reams of paper per usable tree, with 500 individual paper sheets in each ream - resulting in 8,500 sheets of paper obtainable per tree.

By making rough calculations about the size of the Internet, how much paper can be gained per tree, and assuming that all trees within the Amazon can be utilised for the production of paper, printing the non-explicit Internet would require only around 0.002% of the Amazon rainforest.

Despite the small percentage of the rainforest required to print the visible Internet, it is believed that the non-explicit web is only a mere 0.2% of the total Internet, with the rest encompassing the Dark Web, which exists outside of regular search engines. To print the other 99.8% of the Internet would require many more trees – but still only equating to around 2 per cent of the entire Amazon rainforest.

The students presented their findings in a paper entitled 'How Much of the Amazon Would it Take to Print the Internet?’ for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science. Students from the University of Leicester (UK) and McMaster University (Canada) have contributed to this year’s journal. The student-run journal is designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers.