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How Does AF&PA Calculate Paper and Cardboard Recycling Rates?

More than two-thirds of the paper used in the U.S. is recycled and used to make new sustainable paper products people use every day. That’s more than 50 million tons of paper. To unpack the paper and cardboard recycling rates further, we turned to AF&PA’s Executive Director of Recovered Fiber…

Do You Know How to Recycle Milk Cartons?

What happens when you recycle a milk carton? Cartons are transported to paper mills and recycling plants where they become new products like boxes, toilet paper and even ceiling tiles.

Colorado EPR Scheme Will Hurt State’s Recycling Efforts

AF&PA is disappointed by the enactment of Colorado’s Producer Responsibility Program for Recycling. Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB22-1355 into law, creating an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program that includes paper and paper-based packaging products.

EPA Packaging Recycling

Most recent data from the EPA  indicates that paper and paperboard packaging accounts for 3/4 of all packaging materials recovered for recycling in the U.S.

Where Recycled Paper Goes Graph

In 2021, nearly half of recycled paper went into making containerboard - the material used to make cardboard boxes.

Cardboard Recycling Graph

In 2021, 91.4% of cardboard boxes were recycled. Keep up the good work by breaking boxes down flat, keeping them dry and clean, and then put them in the bin. 

Paper Recycling Graph

In 2021, we recovered more than 50 million tons of paper for recycling and the paper recycling rate was 68%.  That's a rate on par with the highest rate previously achieved.

Paper Recycling Rate Graphic

68% of paper was recycled in 2021. A rate on par with the highest rate previously achieved.

Cardboard Recycling Rate Graphic

91.4% of all cardboard boxes were recycled in 2021. The recycling rate for cardboard has exceeded 82% since 2009. 

Paper and Cardboard Recycling Rate Graphic

Paper recycling is a success story. In 2021, 68% of paper was recycled and 91.4% of cardboard boxes were recycled.

U.S. Paper Industry Reaches Recycling High in 2021

AF&PA announced 68% of all paper consumed in the United States was recycled in 2021 – a rate on par with the highest rate previously achieved. Additionally, the recycling rate for old corrugated containers (OCC) – commonly known as cardboard – increased. 

Unpacking Continuously High Paper Recycling Rates

The numbers are in! Paper is one of the most recycled materials. This is confirmed by our continuously high recycling rates. In 2021, the paper recycling rate climbed to 68%. And the recycling rate for cardboard boxes was 91.4%.