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U.S. Paper Industry Tallies High Recycling Rate in 2022

old corrugated containers In 2022, the recycling rate for old corrugated containers (OCC), also known as cardboard, was 93.6%, an increase over last year's rate.

Aug. 8, 2023 - The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) today announced that nearly 68% of paper consumed in the United States (67.9%) was recycled in 2022.

The paper recycling rate held approximately steady to the 2021 rate and has remained consistently high. In fact, the paper recycling rate has met or exceeded 63% each year since 2009.

The U.S. paper industry first voluntarily set a goal to help improve paper recycling back in the 1990s. The recycling rate has more than doubled since that time.

Cardboard Recycling Rate

In 2022, the recycling rate for old corrugated containers (OCC), also known as cardboard, was 93.6%, an increase over last year's rate.

Meanwhile, the 3-year average (2020-2022) for OCC was 91.3%.

"Paper and cardboard continue to be some of the most-recycled material in the U.S.," said AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock. "Paper recycling is also one of the best examples of how we, as a society, are working to respect our environment and contribute to a circular economy."

Paper Industry Investment

The paper industry has completed or announced nearly $7 billion in manufacturing investments from 2019-2025 that will use more than 9 million tons of recovered fiber.

"Paper recycling is a success story, and our industry's commitment continues," Brock said. "We're working to use even more recycled paper in manufacturing and set a goal to increase the use of secondary materials like recycled paper in new paper products to 50% by 2030. These recycled paper products are a key component to our circular value chain."

The paper industry also has a real ownership stake in the recycling system. AF&PA members own more than 100 materials recovery facilities nationwide. They are continuously working to innovate and improve technology, especially when it comes to paper recycling.

About AF&PA

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recycle resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry's sustainability initiative — Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future.

The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states.


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