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Resilient U.S. Paper Industry Maintains High Recycling Rate in 2020

65.7 Percent of Paper Consumed in the United States Was Recycled

CONTACT: Tim Ebner

(202) 463-2587, comm@afandpa.org

WASHINGTON — The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) today announced that 65.7 percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled in 2020, maintaining a recycling rate that has been consistently high for over a decade. Since 2009, paper recycling has met or exceeded 63 percent—nearly double the rate the U.S. paper industry achieved in 1990.

Meanwhile, U.S. mill consumption of old corrugated containers (OCC) reached a record level in 2020 of 22.8 million tons. The recycling rate for OCC was 88.8 percent, and the three-year average was 92.4 percent.

“In an unprecedented and dynamic year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, almost two-thirds of paper was recycled and transformed into new sustainable paper products,” said AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock. “The resilience and commitment of our industry is notable, as is engagement of consumers in the paper recycling process. The result is a consistent and high rate for paper recycling.” 

Paper recycling helps extend the life of fiber, creating new sustainable paper-based packaging products and advancing the circular economy.

“Paper recycling continues to be a success, and the U.S. paper industry plays an essential role,” Brock said. “Our industry leadership remains strong with $4.1 billion in manufacturing infrastructure investments, announced, planned or made, from 2019-2023, to continue the best use of recycled fiber in our products.”

For more information about U.S. paper recycling statistics, paper recycling and AF&PA’s commitment to sustainability, please visit: afandpa.org

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.