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paper recycling

Paper Recycling Rate Down in 2013

paper recyclingWhile recovered paper consumption at US paper and paperboard mills increased by 230,000 tons in 2013, the overall paper recycling rate slipped from 65.1 percent in 2012 to 63.5 percent in 2013, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.

AF&PA attributes the decline to a 6.3 percent reduction in US exports of recovered paper due to economic weakness in certain key customer markets.

The annual paper recovery rate has nearly doubled since 1990, and the industry has set a goal to exceed 70 percent paper recovery by 2020 as part of its Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article cited a 2013 column by Stephen P. Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, that has since been retracted by the author.

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2 thoughts on “Paper Recycling Rate Down in 2013

  1. I’ve always been curious, and have often asked AF&PA what has been the reason for why the recycling rate increased (when it was). I thought that if we had a basic analysis of what AF&PA was doing well, we could then work collectively to continually improve and reach that 70% goal they set. Unfortunately, AF&PA didn’t share a cogent analysis at the time. I suspect that AF&PA doesn’t have any plan to increase recycling rates – the rates increase because of market forces. Just as the recent decrease isn’t because AF&PA is trying to decrease the rate, it’s decreasing because of the market. If AF&PA was serious about increasing recycling rates, they would have a plan for how they are going to reach 70% paper recovery. Their sustainability report on pages 7-8 talks mainly about “education.” I would guess that the increase in paper recovery has more to do with curbside and municipal recycling efforts expanding more so than AF&PA setting goals.

  2. The final paragraph is unfortunate and innaccurate. Numerous studies have shown the multi-dimensional benefits of using wastepaper to make new paper. For example, a study commissioned by National Geographic last year, and reported on by Environmental Leader, found recycled paper outperformed virgin paper on environmental impact in 14 of 14 categories analyzed. See: https://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/03/21/national-geographic-may-use-recycled-paper/

    Of course, manufacturing anything has an environmental impact, and recycled paper is no different. However to suggest it is worse for the climate to choose recycled products over virgin is misinformed.

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