Resource Recycling News

Fiber recycling rates remain high

Cardboard in a recycling bin.

Despite showing brief declines between 2018 and 2020, paper and OCC recycling rates continue to trend upward. | AdamBoor/Shutterstock

Data from the American Forest & Paper Association showed that paper and OCC recycling rates held steady in 2022, despite fluctuations in recycled material markets more generally.

According to the industry group’s data, the traditional paper recycling rate was nearly 68% in 2022, holding stable to the 2021 rate. OCC’s traditional recycling rate saw a small increase in 2022 to just over 93%, showing recovery from a dip to 88.8% in 2020. 

Those “traditional” rates are calculated by comparing the amount of recovered paper used to make new paper and paperboard by U.S. mills and net exports of recovered paper against the new supply of paper and paperboard in the U.S. over the same time period.

“The rate informs how much paper is diverted from landfills,” a press release noted. “It is an important indicator of how much recovered paper is used to make new products.”

There is also an effective rate, which takes into account the amount of paper and paperboard available for recovery in the U.S. There has been some recent debate over how to best calculate paper and OCC recycling rates. 

The 2022 effective recycling rate for total paper declined slightly to between 73% and 78%, while the effective rate for OCC was stable at 80% to 85%. 

“Both the traditional and effective rates illustrate that paper recycling remains consistently high,” the press release noted. “The paper and wood products industry is inherently circular.” 

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