Paper recycling rate dips in 2013

The American Forest & Paper Association cites declining exports as a key reason for the dip.

May 6, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Paper recycling rates           

The trade association the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), based in Washington, has reported the recycling rate for paper and paperboard dipped slightly to 63.5 percent in 2013, down slightly from the previous year’s paper recovery rate of 65.1 percent.

For 2013, the AF&PA reports slightly more than 50 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered for recycling by domestic mills or exported to end consumers.

In analyzing the figures, the AF&PA notes that domestic consumption of recovered fiber increased by 230,000 tons for the year. However, the biggest negative for the paper recycling market was the 6.3 percent decline in the export of recovered fiber. Reflecting the importance of the offshore market to the paper recycling industry, in 2013 19.9 million tons of recovered fiber, about 40 percent of the recovered fiber stream, was exported. This sector is far and away the largest end market for recovered fiber.

Other end markets and their share of the sector are:
•    containerboard, 16.06 million tons, 32 percent share; 
•    boxboard, 6.22 million tons, 12 percent; 
•    tissue, 4.42 million tons, 9 percent; 
•    newsprint, 1.06 million tons, 2 percent; and
•    other end markets, 2.47 million tons, 5 percent.

Donna Harman, president and CEO of the AF&PA, says, “Paper recovery for recycling is a collective effort. We thank the millions of Americans who recycle at home, work and school every day for helping to make paper recovery a success.”

The AF&PA also reports that the annual paper recovery rate has nearly doubled since 1990 and that 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.

Broken out by individual grades, the use of old corrugated container (OCC) by domestic mills increased by 3.9 percent in 2013 to 19.8 million tons. However, that gain was insufficient to offset the 8.9 percent drop in OCC exports, which totaled 9.117 million tons for the year. As a result, the OCC recovery rate slipped from an all-time high of 91 percent in 2012 to 88.5 percent in 2013.

The recovery rate for old newspaper and mechanical papers ebbed from 70 percent in 2012 to 67.6 percent in 2013, reflecting declines in the recovery of the grades for domestic use and for export, according to the AF&PA. Lower domestic newsprint production and weakness in global recovered paper markets also contributed to the recovery rate decline.

Also showing a decline in usage was printing and writing paper, which saw the recovery rate decline from 54.1 percent in 2012 to 53.1 percent last year. The AF&PA also cited a softer export market as a key reason for the decline.