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What The New York Times Gets Wrong About Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Paper Recycling

A recent opinion column in the New York Times (“Recycling in America Is a Mess. A New Bill Could Clean It Up,” by Michael Kimmelman) touched on paper recycling and something called Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR. The article fell short in its characterization of paper, and we're setting the record straight. 

The truth is paper recycling is not “broken,” but a success story thanks to the efforts of our industry. The recycling rate for paper and paper-based packaging remains strong, meeting or exceeding 63 percent every year since 2009. That’s more paper by weight recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than plastic, glass, steel, and aluminum combined. 

EPR is an idea that’s been around for decades in various forms. Common to each is the attempt to shift recycling costs onto manufacturers, and inevitably, to consumers in the form of higher prices. 

EPR efforts for paper products are regressive solutions in search of a problem. EPR fees paid by producers would reduce the capital available to support further investment in manufacturing capacity using recovered fiber.  

Today, paper products are an essential and sustainable option, widely accepted for recycling at curbside, and make up more than half of the typical consumer’s recycling bin.  

U.S. packaging and pulp producers have committed more than $4.1 billion in manufacturing infrastructure investments, from 2019-2023, to continue the best use of recovered fiber in our products.  

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 recyclable 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 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper