Q.1099: In 2010 USA recovered 63.5 % of paper/paperboard used but only 36% fibers came from recycling: where is the balance?

Ans. It seems there is a contradiction in the two numbers but diversion/loss of recovered paper due to following reasons cause the difference

  • US is the largest exporter of recovered (waste) paper and about 30% of recovered paper is exported.
  • Writing and printing paper may contain up to 40% fillers, which is either lost during recycling or not counted as "fiber"
  • Paper contains from 4 to 8% water
  • Recovered paper contains 2 to 10% rejects

Where Recovered Paper Goes

Data for the year 2011 indicates that 30 percent of the paper and paperboard recovered in the U.S. went to produce containerboard (i.e., the material used for corrugated boxes) and 11 percent went to produce boxboard, which includes folding boxes and gypsum wallboard facings.

Exports of recovered paper to China and other nations absorbed 42 percent of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S. in 2011.

Uses of recovered paper in USA

Packaging Type Thousand Tons Recovered Share of Total
Newsprint 1,836 3.0%
Tissue 4,084 8.0%
Containerboard 15,993 30%
Boxboard 6,046 11.0%
Other 2,634 5.0%
Net Exports 22,174 42.0%
Total 52,767 100%
2011 data    
Annual AF&PA Fiber Survey/U.S. Bureau of Census

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