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Is the Paper Industry Sustainable? 

Is the paper industry sustainable?

Bales of recycled cardboard going into a pulper at a paper mill.
About 80% of U.S. paper mills
use some recycled paper

YES, the paper industry is sustainable.

Paper products are made from trees, which are a renewable resource, and recycled paper. About 80% of U.S. paper mills use some recycled paper fiber to make renewable products like packaging, office paper, newspaper, and paper towels.

Even so, the industry is working to improve its sustainability through innovation and sustainability initiatives.

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How is the paper industry sustainable?

Sustainable practices are the foundation of the paper and wood products industry, such as:

  • Sustainable Forest Management
  • Efficient Manufacturing
  • Use of Renewable Bioenergy
  • Sustainable Water Management
  • Paper Recycling

AF&PA member companies set 5 sustainability goals for 2030 to help advance sustainable products for a sustainable future.

How does the paper industry support sustainable forestry?

A confier forest
More than 1 billion
trees planted in U.S. each year

 As a condition of membership, AF&PA members are committed to sustainable forest management and sourcing wood from responsibly managed forests.

Trees are harvested to make essential and sustainable paper and wood products. And the paper industry uses every part of the tree so nothing goes to waste.

Then, trees are replanted and grown again while protecting the ecosystem of the forest. Careful harvesting and planting ensures forests for decades to come.

Today, U.S. forests are strong. The U.S. grows twice the volume of trees than is harvested and more than 1 billion trees are planted in the U.S. each year.

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Does the paper industry use a lot of energy?

Pulp and paper manufacturing is energy intensive. Energy represents one of the most significant costs for a mill’s operation. Increasing energy efficiency is a fundamental sustainability objective of AF&PA members.

Since 2005, AF&PA members have improved energy efficiency by more than 13%. This is largely due to increased use of renewable energy like biomass.

Does the production of paper generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions?

Green leaves on a tree branch.
More than 24% reduction
in GHG emissions by AF&PA members

The paper and wood products industry was among the first manufacturing industries to take voluntary action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Since 2005, AF&PA members have reduced GHG emissions by more than 24%. And they’ve committed to reducing GHG emissions by 50% by 2030!

The paper industry is reducing GHG emissions by:

  • Improving the energy efficiency of mills
  • Increasing the use of renewable energy, such as biomass and hydropower
  • Investing in newer, more efficient technology
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Learn more about the paper industry’s commitment to sustainability:

2022 Student Design Challenge Winners Fashion Institute of Technology

Student Design Challenge Winners Focus on Innovative and Sustainable Paperboard Packaging

The Paperboard Packaging Alliance challenges students to design innovative paperboard packaging solutions. Student teams from the Fashion Institute of Technology and California Polytechnic State University were named winners of the 2022 Student Design Challenge. 

Blair Bishop explaining the history of the land to a group of people.

Forest Management Key to Healthy Forests

Blair Bishop is a registered forester and the owner of Bishop Forestry and Land PLLC. Bishop believes to help forests thrive now and in the future, others need to learn about managing healthy forests.

Portrait Photo of Jesse Levine

Jesse Levine Reflects on AF&PA’s Sustainability Progress and Future Ahead

With a proven track record in sustainability, the paper and wood products industry attracts professionals who are passionate about the environment. This includes professionals like Jesse Levine, AF&PA's Senior Director of Energy and Environmental Policy.

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