Does paper actually get recycled? The industry answers.

by Clara Cozort | May 25, 2021

Question: You put your recycling in the bin and drop it at the curb. Then what happens? Does it actually get recycled?
 
Answer: Yes! At paper mills across the country, recycled paper is used to make the essential products millions of people rely on.
 
Here’s how it works:
 
After your local recycling hauler picks up your recycling, it’s taken to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where it’s sorted into like things. 
 
Workers remove items that shouldn’t be there, also called contaminates. That includes things like plastic bags, holiday lights, diapers and even bowling balls. 
 
Paper is often separated first and sorted into groups for cardboard, mixed paper, office paper, among others. Then, the paper is baled and shipped to a paper mill where it’s turned into new paper products. 
 
Paper recycling is a success story. 
 

In 2020, the paper recycling rate was 65.7 percent. Nearly half of recycled paper went into manufacturing containerboard – the material used to make cardboard boxes.

A pie graph showing where recycled paper goes
 
Recycled paper is also used to make tissue products like toilet paper and paper towels, as well as newspapers. 
 
Doing your part -- recycling dry and clean paper products – ensures this process keeps going.
 
So, 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.
 

Follow Us on Twitter


Does paper actually get recycled? The industry answers.

by Clara Cozort | May 25, 2021

Question: You put your recycling in the bin and drop it at the curb. Then what happens? Does it actually get recycled?
 
Answer: Yes! At paper mills across the country, recycled paper is used to make the essential products millions of people rely on.
 
Here’s how it works:
 
After your local recycling hauler picks up your recycling, it’s taken to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where it’s sorted into like things. 
 
Workers remove items that shouldn’t be there, also called contaminates. That includes things like plastic bags, holiday lights, diapers and even bowling balls. 
 
Paper is often separated first and sorted into groups for cardboard, mixed paper, office paper, among others. Then, the paper is baled and shipped to a paper mill where it’s turned into new paper products. 
 
Paper recycling is a success story. 
 

In 2020, the paper recycling rate was 65.7 percent. Nearly half of recycled paper went into manufacturing containerboard – the material used to make cardboard boxes.

A pie graph showing where recycled paper goes
 
Recycled paper is also used to make tissue products like toilet paper and paper towels, as well as newspapers. 
 
Doing your part -- recycling dry and clean paper products – ensures this process keeps going.
 
So, 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.
 

Our Economic Impacts

 
 

*Total reflects available data

The go-to source for politics and issues important to the paper and wood products industry at the federal and state level. 

AF&PA wants to keep you up-to-date on all of the action on Capitol Hill as well as on the state level regarding the Forest Products Industry.

AF&PA’s Grow the Vote site offers more information on hot issues, state resources, legislator scorecards, how you can take action and more!