Continuous Commitment to Paper Recovery for Recycling

Feb 25, 2014
 By Donna Harman
 President & CEO
 Paper Age, January/February Edition

 Recovering paper and paper-based products for recycling has long
 been a priority for our industry and an effort in which  AF&PA
 members continue to be proven leaders. Since 1990, when we first
  set a nationwide paper recovery goal, the U.S. recovery rate has nearly doubled, topping 65 percent in 2012.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2011, only 27.6 percent of glass, 20.7 percent of aluminum and 8.3 percent of plastics were recovered from municipal solid waste streams.

Recovering paper products extends the fiber supply, which allows our industry to reuse its products to make new ones. It also saves an average of 3.3 cubic yards of land­fill space for each ton of paper recycled. 

AF&PA member companies have taken efforts to develop and nurture a voluntary, market-driven system that fosters consistently high rates of paper recovery. Our sustainability initiative – Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 – includes a goal to exceed 70 percent recovery of all paper used in the U.S. by the year 2020.  Our members continually take strides to improve the recovery of paper and paper-based packaging.

The paper recycling industry collects, sorts and processes recovered paper into new paper and paper-based packaging products that were valued at $8.4 billion in 2012. And the value of U.S. recovered paper exports totaled $3.5 billion in 2012. All in all, paper recovery has fostered a dynamic marketplace that allows recovered fiber to find its highest-value use, which helps to encourage even more recycling.

But paper recovery for recycling is a collective effort. Ultimately, it is possible and successful thanks to the commitment of millions of Ameri­cans who make the effort to recycle at home, work and school every day.

We recognize excellence in paper recovery for recycling through our annual AF&PA Recycling Awards program.

First launched in 2006, the AF&PA Recycling Awards recognize and highlight businesses, schools and communities that increase paper recovery through educational, innovative and cost-effective programs and partnerships. The program  generates interest in developing new recycling programs; provides a resource to those looking to start or improve paper recovery programs; and supports the industry’s ongoing effort to increase recovery and maintain the quality of recyclable paper.

Now in its ninth year, the AF&PA Recycling awards program has been redesigned and continues to provide great visibility and reward those engaged in successful paper recycling efforts.   

In each category – school, business and community – there are now four chances to win. Programs will no longer be judged for their all-over performance, but on specific characteristics, namely: volume – the  total amount of paper and paperboard collected; creativity – unique and innovative ways that have been used to market the program, raise awareness and generate interest; participation – unique and innovative ways successful programs increased participation and tonnage collected; and partnerships –  innovative partnerships with communities, businesses and/or non-profit organizations used to promote increased recovery.

This structure will allow for a greater focus on elements that drive improved paper recovery program performance and increase recovery overall. It will also allow us to expand our reach and provide opportunities for more parties to engage and enter the program.

Descriptions of the awards, entry criteria and entry forms are all available on The deadline for all entries is March 7, 2014. 

Our industry has a proud tradition of achievement in paper recovery for recycling, and we are looking forward to recognizing the invaluable involvement of businesses, schools and communities in making paper recycling a success.  Paper offers a recyclable product made from a renewable resource, which is one of many strong points that makes paper the choice that consumers can trust and be proud to use.