By Brian Hawkinson
Executive Director, Recovered Fiber
Marking its third consecutive annual increase, the U.S. paper recovery rate rose from 66.8 percent in 2015 to an all-time high of 67.2 percent in 2016. The annual paper recovery rate has doubled since 1990 and U.S. paper recovery has met or exceeded 63 percent for each of the past eight years.
That is great news for the industry and for the environment. The amount of paper and paperboard going to landfills declined by approximately 200,000 tons in 2016, while the amount of paper recovered for recycling increased.
You can find more U.S. paper recovery rate statistics at www.paperrecycles.org/statistics.
The 2016 recovery rate of 67.2 percent indicates the industry is moving closer to reaching its goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020 as part of its Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative.
We recognize there is more work ahead of us to get there.
AF&PA members are going deeper into the recovery stream to increase recovery from sources where there is opportunity to collect more, including paperboard and corrugated packaging from homes and printing-writing papers from homes, offices and schools.
As e-commerce grows, more packaging is going directly to homes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce grew from 2.8 percent of total retail sales in 2006 to 8.1 percent in 2016. The trend toward more Americans working from home offices means more communications papers are available for recovery there. Again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 percent of employed Americans did some or all of their work at home in 2015.
To help communities improve their capacity to generate more and better quality recyclable materials, AF&PA continues to fund The Recycling Partnership, which creates public-private partnerships to build communities’ recycling infrastructure and improve consumer recycling outreach and education.
The voluntary, market-driven recovery system, the millions of Americans who recycle every day, and industry efforts to inform consumers about the importance of paper recycling continue to enable a high U.S. paper recovery rate and lay the foundation for future increases in recovery.