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What the Paper Industry is Doing to Improve Recycling

Paper Recycling Works

The paper recycling rate has met or exceeded 63% every year since 2009. What makes paper recycling a success story? A few things:

  • Millions of people like you who recycle clean and dry paper products
  • Widely available recycling programs that accept paper
  • Recycling education
  • Our industry’s continued investment

It’s a model that works. And, it’s a model our industry believes in. Investing in and improving paper recycling has been an industry priority for decades. Our industry first set a goal to help improve paper recycling in the 1990s. The recycling rate has doubled since that time.   

Now, we’ve set a goal to increase the use of secondary materials like recycled paper in new paper products to 50% by 2030.

This means the industry will use even more recycled paper in manufacturing! This goal is part of our Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future initiative.

Paper Industry Invests in Recycling

Recovered cardboard going up a conveyer belt in a paper mill to be repulped. The text reads, Nearly $7 billion in manufacturing investments will use more than 9 million tons of recycled fiber. *Completed or announced 2019-2025

AF&PA members are investing in recycling infrastructure and working to advance the circular value chain.

Nearly $7 billion in investments completed or announced (2019-2025) will use more than 9 million tons of recycled fiber. That’s enough fiber to fill about 34,000 single family homes.   

Investments go further than our mills. We’re also working with stakeholders on paper recycling education. We developed a tool to help packaging manufacturers, designers and brands create and manufacture packaging that meets their recyclability goals.

And, we work with stakeholders to share that pizza boxes are recyclable at paper mills.  Grease and cheese in an amount typically found on pizza boxes are not an issue.

How You Can Help Recycle Paper

Paper recycling is successful not only because of our industry’s investments but also because of the millions of people who recycle every day. Many paper products like cardboard boxes, paper bags, pizza boxes and magazines are widely accepted for recycling.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Always check your local guidelines to see what’s accepted in your area. When you wishcycle – put something in the bin thinking or hoping it will be recycled – you’re actually harming the recycling process.
  • Keep paper products dry and clean before placing them in the recycling bin.
  • Contact your local hauler or municipality if they don’t accept pizza boxes to ask them to start. You can send them our guidelines

Our industry needs paper and paper-based packaging to be recycled, so we can turn them into new products. When you recycle correctly, you’re helping us do that successfully.


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