Paper recycling is a success story

Paper recycling is an American success story that’s on a path toward better results.

Thanks to industry initiatives and the diligence of consumers, nearly twice as much paper is recovered today than just 15 years ago. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 52 million tons, or 66.8 percent of the paper consumed annually in the U.S., is recovered for recycling.

EPA data shows that the recovery of paper and paperboard from municipal solid waste streams exceeds that of plastics (by nearly seven times), aluminum (by more than three times) and glass (by more than two times).

The American Forest & Paper Association’s sustainability initiative, Better Practices, Better Planet 2020, includes an industry goal to further increase paper recovery for recycling to exceed 70 percent by 2020.

Courtesy of AF&PA, here are some of the benefits of paper recycling:

– It extends the useful life of fiber. Approximately 80 percent of all U.S. paper mills use some recovered fiber to make everything from paper-based packaging to tissue products to office paper and newspaper.

– It keeps paper out of landfills. More than twice as much paper is recycled than is sent to landfills. Every ton of paper recovered for recycling saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. By weight, more paper is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than glass, plastic, steel and aluminum combined, according to EPA.

– It reduces greenhouse gas emissions. AF&PA member companies’ use of recovered fiber resulted in avoided greenhouse gas emissions of more than 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2014.

– It is widely accessible. About 96 percent of Americans have access to community curbside and/or drop-off paper recycling programs.

More information about recycling opportunities can be found at

One of AF&PA’s key targets for improved recycling is commercial sources, such as office buildings, schools, and institutions, which make up about 35 to 45 percent of all municipal solid waste. About 93 percent of office waste by weight is paper, most of which can be recycled. Still, less than half of all office papers are recycled.

Any office or other commercial or institutional source interested in starting an office paper recycling program can find more information on what’s involved at

— The Daily News, Iron Mountain