US paper recycling rate reaches 68%

Recycled paper pulp

The US paper recycling rate climbed to 68% in 2021, the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has revealed.

This is an increase on 66.2% when the data was last published for 2019.


For cardboard, the recycling rate was 91.4% in 2021, up from 2019’s 91.2%. However, the cardboard recycling rate has yet to match the 2015 rate of 92.9%.

In 2021, a total of 50.48 million tonnes of paper was recycled. The highest tonnage recycled was in 2007 with 54.32 million tonnes, but the recycling rate was just 56%.

For cardboard, 2021 was a highpoint in the amount of material recycled reaching 35.2 million tonnes. The previous largest amount was 2019 when 32.2 million tonnes was recycled.

AF&PA president and chief executive Heidi Brock said: “Paper recycling is stronger than ever and remains an environmental success story. In 2021, US paper recycling reached a high rate of achievement. Further evidence that our industry’s investment and public participation in recycling programmes are proven and effective.

“Our industry is a leader in sustainability and understands what it means to be a responsible producer. We are investing nearly $5 billion (£3.99 billion) in projects from 2019 through 2024 to use approximately 8 million additional tonnes of recovered fibre.

“This reflects a longstanding commitment to invest in manufacturing infrastructure using recycled paper and improve the circular nature of our industry.”

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