What the Paper Industry is Doing to Improve Recycling

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Paper Recycling Works

The paper recycling rate has met or exceeded 63% every year since 2009. What makes paper recycling a success story? A few things:

  • Millions of people like you who recycle clean and dry paper products
  • Widely available recycling programs that accept paper
  • Recycling education
  • Our industry’s continued investment

It’s a model that works. And, it’s a model our industry believes in. Investing in and improving paper recycling has been on our mind and part of our goals for decades.
Our industry set our first goal to help improve paper recycling back in the 1990s. The recycling rate has nearly doubled since then.

Now, we’ve set a goal to increase the use of secondary materials like recycled fiber from paper products to 50% by 2030. Meaning, the industry will use even more recycled paper in manufacturing. This goal is part of our Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future initiative.

Paper Industry Invests in Recycling

AF&PA members are investing in recycling infrastructure and working to advance the circular value chain.

Approximately $5 billion in investments, planned or announced (2019-2024), will use 7.8 million tons of recycled fiber. That’s enough fiber to fill New York’s Grand Central Station 124 times.

Investments go further than our mills. We’re also working with stakeholders on paper recycling education. We developed a tool to help packaging manufacturers, designers and brands create and manufacture packaging that meets their recyclability goals.

And, we’re working with materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and recycling haulers to confirm that pizza boxes are recyclable. Grease and cheese aren’t an issue. 

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How You Can Help Recycle Paper

Paper recycling is successful not only because of our industry’s investments but also because of the millions of people who recycle every day. Many paper products like cardboard boxes, paper bags, pizza boxes and magazines are widely accepted for recycling.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Always check your local guidelines to see what’s accepted in your area. When you wishcycle – put something in the bin thinking or hoping it will be recycled – you’re actually harming the recycling process.
  • Keep paper products dry and clean before placing them in the recycling bin.
  • Contact your local hauler or municipality if they don’t accept pizza boxes to ask them to start. You can send them our guidelines

Our industry needs paper and paper-based packaging to be recycled, so we can turn them into new products. When you recycle correctly, you’re helping us do that successfully.


The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recycle resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative—Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at afandpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.


Source: AF&PA