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U.S. Paper Industry Reaches Recycling High in 2021

68% of Paper Consumed in the United States Was Recycled 

CONTACT: Tim Ebner/Clara Cozort 
(202) 463-2587,  

WASHINGTON – The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), today, 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. The rate was 91.4% in 2021, up from the 2020 rate of 88.8%, and overall, a three-year average of 90.5%.  

“Paper recycling is stronger than ever and remains an environmental success story," said AF&PA President & CEO Heidi Brock. “In 2021, U.S. paper recycling reached a high rate of achievement. Further evidence that our industry’s investment and public participation in recycling programs are proven and effective.” 
Paper recycling extends the life of fiber and advances the circular economy. It allows for the creation of new, sustainable paper-based packaging and products.  
“Our industry is a leader in sustainability and understands what it means to be a responsible producer,” Brock said. “We are investing nearly $5 billion in projects from 2019 through 2024 to use approximately 8 million additional tons of recovered fiber. This reflects a longstanding commitment to invest in manufacturing infrastructure using recycled paper and improve the circular nature of our industry." 

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

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