The recovery rate is measured based across all paper types. And there are many types of paper that simply won’t be recovered. Consider tissue and towel. I don’t know what you use paper towels for, but mine usually come out when the cat has been ill and that towel is simply not going in my recycling bin. There are also many other applications that are generally considered “disposable” – mostly sanitary and food applications. Companies like Starbucks are working very hard to find a solution for poly-coated cup stock – but for now they are not getting recycled en masse.
While there are practical and technical limitations for many grades, for others the challenge still lies in education and changing people’s behavior. A recent study commissioned by AF&PA reports that 87% of people in the US have access to recycling facilities of some sort (either curb side or drop off). So while the vast majority of us have access, many people still don’t recycle what they can. Single stream recycling programs in more and more communities are making it easier to keep these products out of landfills. And sometimes we all just need a gentle reminder.
So what’s the limit? What can we achieve? The AF&PA has established the target of exceeding 70% by 2020. The Environmental Paper Network calls for 75% recovery by 2015. While the specific targets may be different, it is important to note that the two organizations are working together specifically on this issue.
But what should the goal be? Maybe it doesn’t matter what the specific target is as long as we continue to try to reach higher levels.
Laura M. Thompson, Phd, is director of sustainable development and technical marketing at Sappi Fine Paper North America. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. and PhD in Paper Science from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. Since 1995, she has held a variety of positions within the paper industry including R&D, mill environmental, product development for specialties and coated fine paper, and, most recently, sustainability. Since joining Sappi in 2006, Laura has quickly emerged as an industry leader in the field of sustainable development.
Reposted from the eQ Blog with permission from Sappi Fine Paper North America. For more information, please visit Sappi’s eQ Microsite.