By Brian Hawkinson
Executive Director, Recovered Fiber
AF&PA recently released our 2016 Sustainability Report, which documents the industry’s progress in working toward achieving each of the goals in our Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative. Among the goals showing progress in the report is the paper recovery rate. In 2011, AF&PA set a goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020.
In May, AF&PA announced a record paper recovery rate of 66.8 percent in 2015. That is up from 65.4 percent in 2014 and nearly double the paper recovery rate in 1990,when the industry set its first paper recovery goal.
The recovery of paper and paper-based packaging for recycling has fostered a dynamic marketplace that allows recovered paper to find its highest-value end use as feedstock to manufacture new products. And that is very important to the industry.
In 2015, the industry consumed more than 30 million tons of recovered paper to make paper and paperboard products. That represents approximately 38.7 percent of the total fiber furnish used to make those products. So increasing paper recovery for recycling benefits the industry by growing this element of the manufacturing supply stream.
It also helps the environment by recovering valuable resources and turning them into essential products that we use every day.
The paper industry’s recycling success has provided an example and led the way for other U.S. recycling efforts. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more paper is recovered from municipal solid waste streams than steel, glass, aluminum and plastics combined. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2013 Fact Sheet” (2015).)
Encouraging and enable recycling is an integral part of this industry’s sustainable practices. Since AF&PA instituted the paper recovery goal, the industry has worked with partners to promote increased recovery in communities, on college campuses, in schools, and businesses.
As AF&PA continues to track our progress toward attainment of the Better Practices Better Planet 2020 goals, including the paper recovery goal, we are committed to holding ourselves accountable through an ongoing reporting process.
We don’t know what the future holds. But we are encouraged that through industry leadership and the participation of millions of Americans who recycle at home, work and school every day, we can continue to work toward our goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery for recycling by 2020.