A Winning Paper Recycling Game Plan Requires Teamwork

Jul 29, 2015
By Brian Hawkinson
Executive Director, Recovered Fiber

The National Recycling Coalition defines recycling as “A series of activities by which material that has reached the end of its current use is processed into material utilized in the production of new products.”

The goal of paper recycling, then, is to supply paper and paper packaging manufacturers with enough mill-quality recovered fiber to meet their needs in making new products. And the paper industry, along with our partners in the states, has a very good record of success in doing that. The U.S. paper recovery rate in 2014 was 65.4 percent – up from 63.5 percent in 2013. In all, more than 50 million tons of paper and paper packaging was recovered for recycling last year.

AF&PA has a goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020. So how do we improve our performance so that we can grow paper recovery from 65.4 percent to 70 percent?

Achieving the goal requires a game plan. Like in any good game plan, each element of the plan is important and each must work well individually and work well together.

A winning paper recycling effort begins with millions of Americans who collect recyclable paper at home, work and school every day. Getting to the recovery goal will take more Americans recovering more kinds of paper and paper packaging – like dry food boxes, corrugated boxes and office papers.

The next activity in the series is processing the paper collected in homes, businesses and schools. Local materials recovery facilities that separate paper from other recyclable materials and do a good job of minimizing contamination of the paper will help increase our chances of success.

The final piece of the game plan is delivering mill-quality recovered fiber to paper and paperboard mills to be utilized in making new products. At the mills, papermakers use the right amounts of the right kinds of recovered fiber to make the highest quality and most cost-effective packaging that meet their customers’ demands.

Each activity working well. All the activities working well together. And all working toward achieving our goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling. That’s a winning game plan!