Paper Recycling in the United States and Beyond: An Update

Lead Author: Dr. Steve Bratkovich

Publish date: 09.22.2008

 

In the not-too-distant past it was commonplace to landfill old newspapers, used office paper, worn-out cardboard boxes, and other paper and paperboard products. Recycling initiatives, combined with an expanding 'recycling mindset', have changed much of how we think about, and respond to, 'trash.

 

Today, paper and paperboard recovery (collection) and recycling (reuse) rates in the United States are approximately 56% and 37%, respectively. Both numbers represent record or near record levels for the nation. Since 1990, paper recovery in the U.S. has grown by more than 87%. The U.S. paper industry continues to establish new benchmarks and has set 60% as the target recovery rate by 2012.

 

While recycling is a success story by many accounts, the U.S. is not the world leader in paper recovery. As reported in an April 19, 2005, Dovetail report, the U.S. trails a number of other developed nations. However, one nation highlighted in the 2005 report Japan has recently had numerous paper producers admit to falsifying recycled paper content claims in their products. This revelation has cast a shadow on Japanese paper producers and led to difficulty in comparing paper recovery and reuse rates between the two countries.

 

This report provides the latest information about actual paper recycling rates in Japan and summarizes paper recycling data for the United States and Europe.