Recycling News

Paper Recycling

Paper recovery for recycling is a national success because of the commitment millions of Americans make each day to recycling at home, at work, or at school.

Our industry’s success in paper recovery is largely attributed to the voluntary, market-driven product recovery system that we and so many others have fostered. The recovery rate for paper consumed in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1990, when we first committed to setting and reaching paper recovery goals. The recycling rate for paper and paper-based packaging remains strong, meeting or exceeding 63 percent every year since 2009. The annual achievements we are making in paper recovery continue to be above the trend line for AF&PA to achieve its goal of exceeding 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020, as part of our sustainability initiative – Better Practices, Better Planet 2020

To support that goal, AF&PA has created a variety of free materials and resources to support paper recycling programs in communities, schools, and businesses. 


AF&PA's goal is to ensure a continuing, expanding domestic recovered fiber supply to help meet global demand.

Paper recycling reuses a renewable resource that sequesters carbon and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas reductions result from avoided methane emissions. In addition, recovering paper extends the fiber supply.

Paper recovery is an environmental success story. Recovered fiber markets are complex, efficient, and dynamic and are not served by regulations or prescriptive approaches to specify the use of recycled fibers or dictate what type of recovered fiber is used in products. AF&PA opposes recycled content mandates and should seek to defeat or amend legislation to ensure the focus remains on increasing paper recovery, not content mandates. AF&PA opposes flow control mandates.

The distinction between pre- and post- consumer content is not meaningful and should not be used in government policies. We support allowing our companies to, once again, issue tax-exempt bonds to finance recycling facilities.

MIT and AF&PA White Paper

China’s action to limit imports of recovered paper has disrupted the overall recovered fiber market in the U.S. and other major recovered fiber generating regions.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), working with AF&PA, published this White Paper to quantify the volume of recovered fiber potentially affected by the China import policy, identify which U.S. manufacturing sectors could theoretically consume additional recovered fiber that would otherwise be exported to China, and using input from subject matter experts, suggest potential ways to address fiber gaps.

Recovered fiber markets are complex, efficient and dynamic. Industry responses include:

  • Domestic consumption of mixed papers has increased in 2018 and new production capacity designed to utilize recovered fiber is being planned.
  • Exports of recovered paper previously shipped to China are finding new markets around the world.
  • Increased awareness of the importance of quality in processing recyclable materials is causing municipalities to improve the performance of materials recovery facilities.

Download the White Paper here.