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AF&PA Sustainability Report: US Paper Recycling Jumps 5.3%

The amount of paper consumed in the United States in 2011 that was subsequently recovered and recycled increased 5.3 percent between 2009 and 2011, according to the American Forest & Paper Association’s 2012 sustainability report.

In 2011, 66.8 percent of all paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling, according to the AF&PA’s 2012 sustainability report. This represents a 3.4 percentage point increase on 2009 levels, reported in the organization’s previous 2010 report.

By comparison, according to EPA municipal solid waste data, 25.5 percent of glass, 20.3 percent of aluminum and 7.1 percent of plastics consumed were recovered for recycling in 2009, the AF&PA says.

The association says its industry has more than doubled its rate of paper recovery since 1990, and AF&PA has a goal of raising the paper recycling rate to 70 percent by 2020. Important to the recycling effort is the fact that as of 2010, 87 percent of the U.S. population had access to curbside and/or drop-off paper recycling services, the AF&PA says.

The organization says that paper recovery saves landfill space – roughly 3.3 cubic yards is saved for each ton of paper recycled – and is good for the economy. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, recovered paper that had been sorted or processed had a market value of $8.9 billion, the report says. The value of US recovered paper exports totalled $3.8 billion in 2011, according to the Census Bureau, the report says.

Member companies improved their energy efficiency from just under 13 million BTUs per ton of production in 2005 to 11.9 million BTUs per ton of production in 2010 – the most recent year the report details. This represents around an 8 percent efficiency improvement over that time period. The report does not detail results for intervening years.

Member pulp and paper mills reduced their purchased energy use per ton of production by 25.3 percent since 1990 and 14.5 percent since 2000. The AF&PA’s 2020 goal is 11.6 million BTUs per ton of production.

The AF&PA describes its industry as a “leader in the production of renewable energy.” More than 65 percent of the on-site energy needed to produce paper products is derived from carbon-neutral biomass fuel, the report says. Paper manufacturer Domtar recently announced that it had increased the proportion of its energy that comes from renewable sources to 76.1 percent.

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