Where Recycled Paper Goes

Data for the year 2019 indicate that 37.8 percent of the paper and paperboard recycled in the U.S. went to produce containerboard (i.e., the material used for corrugated boxes) and 12.2 percent went to produce boxboard, which includes base stock for folding boxes like cereal or medicine boxes, and gypsum wallboard (i.e., drywall) facings.

Net exports of recovered paper to China and other nations accounted for 35.7 percent of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S. in 2019, down from 38.3 percent in 2018.

Recovery Rate Graphs 2020_Where Recovered Paper Goes-source


Paper/Packaging Type Thousand Tons Recycled Share of Total
Tissue 4,150 8.4%
Containerboard 18,605 37.8%
Boxboard 6,004 12.2%
Newsprint & Other* 2,844 5.7%
Net Exports 17,574 35.7%
Total 49,177 100%

Source: Annual Capacity and Fiber Consumption Survey; U.S. Bureau of Census
*Other includes printing-writing, Kraft packaging & Industrial  converting, construction paper and board, molded pulp