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Read on to learn more about these best practices — what you can recycle, how recycling works, and where recyclable materials like paper go. You'll also find industry recycling rates and recycling success stories.

Recycling by the Numbers

Americans recycle a lot of paper! Paper recovered for recycling in the U.S. in 2021 would fill more than 4,000 Washington Monuments. And, every year since 2009, the recycling rate has met or exceeded 63%.

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Paper products in a recycling bin. Text reads, "The U.S. paper recycling rate has met or exceeded 63% since 2009."

PAPER RECYCLING RATE

In 2021, we recovered more than 50 million tons of paper for recycling and the paper recycling rate was 68%. That's a rate on par with the highest rate previously achieved.

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A bale of cardboard ready to be recycled. The text reads, "The U.S. recycling rate for cardboard has exceeded 82% since 2009."

CARDBOARD RECYCLING RATE

In 2021, the recycling rate for cardboard — what the industry calls corrugated — was 91.4%.

Where Does Recycled Paper Go? 

At paper mills across the country, recycled paper is used to make the essential products millions of people rely on every day!

In 2021, nearly half of recycled paper went into making containerboard — the material used to make cardboard boxes.

Recycled paper is also used to make boxes for food and medicine, tissue products like toilet paper and paper towels, as well as newspapers.

What Can You Do?

What can you do to make sure you’re recycling properly? Check your local municipality’s website to understand what’s accepted in your area. And when it comes to paper items: keep them dry and clean, then put them in the recycling bin.