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What is the Environmental Impact of the Paper Industry?

Paper products and packaging are part of our daily lives. From tissues and paper towels to the absorbent pulp in diapers to cardboard boxes to boxes that package medicine and food.

Paper production requires resources like wood, recycled paper, water and energy. Here in the U.S., the paper industry is working hard to find ways to make production and our products more sustainable.

We answered some common questions about the U.S. paper industry and its environmental impact. Dive in to explore how our industry is committed to sustainable manufacturing practices.

Does the U.S. Paper Industry Contribute to Deforestation?

A person planting a pine tree sapling.
1 Billion +
trees are planted each year

No. The U.S. pulp and paper industry is not linked to global deforestation and forest degradation.

U.S. forests are strong and stable. More than 1 billion trees are replanted in the U.S. each year.

The U.S. paper industry is a responsible steward of our planet’s resources. We have a long history of sustainable forest management and innovation.

Our industry uses trees from working forests. These forests are continuously replanted, ensuring a healthy balance for the future.

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How Does the U.S. Paper Industry Source its Wood Responsibly?

The industry prioritizes responsible wood sourcing. We do this in a few ways. Here's how:

Sustainable Fiber Procurement: AF&PA members adhere to sustainable fiber procurement principles as a condition of membership. Procurement is how our members get the wood they need to make the products we rely on.

These principles assure the suppliers our members source wood from are committed to sustainable forest management and harvesting practices.

Sustainable Forest Management Best Practices: We commit to sustainable forest management practices including:

  • Forest certification programs to provide standards, guidelines, and structure for sustainable forest management.
  • Fiber sourcing programs that are third-party verified and are recognized globally.

Complying with the Lacey Act: The Lacey Act combats illegal logging worldwide. It bans the import of wood, pulp and paper products that are sourced from illegally harvested forests. U.S. paper companies have to follow it.

How Much Water is Used, and What Happens to it After Papermaking?

The amount of times water can be reused

Water is an essential part of the pulp and papermaking process. The U.S. paper industry is committed to sustainable water management. Our members are continuously innovating to reduce and reuse water.

Most of the water gets returned to the environment, often cleaner than before! Water can be reused 10 times throughout the manufacturing process, saving tons of fresh water.

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Is the Paper Industry a Responsible and Sustainable Manufacturer?

Electric conductors at a paper mill.
24% +
reduction in GHG emissions since 2005

Yes! The U.S. paper industry is a crucial part of the climate solution.

We took early, 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!

We’ve also improved our energy efficiency by more than 13% since 2005. This is largely due to the increased use of renewable energy like biomass.

As part of our 2030 sustainability goals, we’re advancing a circular value chain through the production of renewable and recyclable products.

That includes increasing the percentage of our products that are recyclable or compostable. We’re also increasing the use of secondary materials like recycled paper and wood leftovers.

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Where Can I Learn More About the U.S. Paper Industry's Sustainability Efforts?

Learn more about our Better Practices, Better Planet 2030 sustainability initiative and our previous accomplishments.

Our industry takes the environmental impact of paper production seriously. Our members are leading the way towards a more sustainable future for paper through our commitment to responsible forestry, water management and reducing GHG emissions.

Photo credit: Domtar

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