Frequently Asked Questions About Paper Recycling

How can I find the paper recycling center closest to me?

Please visit www.earth911.com or contact your local public works department.

How do I get my office to recycle?

To get started, contact your office building management company or waste hauler to see what materials can be collected from your building. For detailed information on how to start a successful office recycling program, visit the many resources in Recycling: in the Workplace.

How much paper was recycled in the U.S. in 2012?

In 2012, 65.1 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. This is an impressive number, but there is more that needs to be done. Please visit our statistics section to learn more about the recovery rates of particular paper grades, along with information on what new products are made from the recovered materials.

How is old paper recycled into new paper?

The recycling process can begin at any number of locations, including community curbside programs, drop-off centers, schools, or offices.

After the paper is collected, it is transferred to a recycling center or Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where contaminants such as glass, plastics, paperclips, and staples are removed. Once the recovered paper is free of contaminants, it is baled and transported to a paper mill where the recycling process begins.

To begin the papermaking process using recovered fiber, the fiber is shredded and mixed with water to make a pulp. The pulp is washed, refined, and cleaned, then turned to slush in a beater. Color dyes, coatings, and other additives are mixed in, and the pulp slush is pumped onto a large moving screen. Computers and special sensors monitor each step of the papermaking process.

As the pulp travels down the screen, water is drained away and recycled. The resulting crude paper sheet, also known as web, is pressed between massive rollers to extract most of the remaining water and to ensure smoothness and uniform thickness. The semidry web is then run through heated dryer rollers to remove any remaining water.

The finished paper is then wound into large rolls, which can be 30 feet wide and weigh close to 25 tons. A slitter cuts the paper into smaller, more manageable rolls, and the paper is ready for use in your school, workplace, and community.

How do I find someone who can pick up the recycled paper from my office?

Please contact your office building management company or waste hauler to see what materials can be collected from your building. For detailed information on how to start a successful office recycling program, visit the many resources in Recycling: in the Workplace.

How do I obtain recycling bins?

Please visit either Recycling Today or Resource Recycling to search for a recycling bin supplier.

How do I find out more about the AF&PA Recycling Awards program?

The AF&PA Recycling Awards recognize outstanding individual, business, community, and school recycling efforts.

What educational materials does your organization provide?

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) offers a variety of posters, brochures, videos, and guides for school, community, and workplace recycling. The materials are available to download and order in Order Materials.

AF&PA has also teamed-up with Scholastic to create an on-line resource on paper recycling for teachers. Click here to download activities tied to the national standards; a classroom poster; and take-home materials.

Recycling Terminology

Paper Recovery: the collection of used paper products.

Recycling: the process of creating a new product from a used one.

Recovery Rate: percentage of paper and paperboard consumed that gets recovered for recycling. Click here for paper recovery statistics.

Mixed Paper: A category of recovered paper that typically includes old magazines, old newspapers, catalogs, direct mail, paper bags, and paperboard (cereal and other boxes).

Old Corrugated (Cardboard) Containers (OCC): used corrugated (cardboard) containers that are typically recycled into shipping boxes.

Old Magazines (OMG): used magazines that can be recycled into to newsprint, tissue, writing paper, and/or paperboard.

Old Newspapers (ONP): used newspapers collected for recycling - often used to produce newsprint, recycled paperboard, tissue, and other paper grades.

Recycling Bin: containers used to collect recyclable materials in communities, workplaces, and schools.

Roll Carts: large, wheeled bins (often 48, 64, or 96-gallon) that communities may provide to residents for collection of their recyclables.

Baler: piece of recycling equipment used to compress old corrugated cardboard containers into cubes.

Pay As You Throw Recycling: a collection system that requires residents to pay a fee per bag of trash generated. In these programs, collection of recyclables is often provided at little or no cost.

Curbside Recycling: a collection system that requires residents to place recyclables in a bin or container at their curbside for regularly scheduled pick-up.

Drop-off Recycling: community recycling programs that require residents to separate and deliver recyclables to a designated site. Dual-Stream Recycling: a curbside collection process in which residents separate paper products from all other recyclables. Single-Stream Recycling a curbside collection process that allows for all recyclables to be placed in one bin or cart with no separation.