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AF&PA reports highest level of recovered paper consumption by US mills in 2021

The 62nd Paper Industry and Fiber Consumption Survey responses suggest paper and paperboard capacity will remain flat in 2022 after slight decline in 2021.

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Washington, has released its 62nd Paper Industry Capacity and Fiber Consumption Survey, which shows overall U.S. paper and paperboard capacity declined 0.4 percent in 2021 compared with the average decline of 1 percent per year since 2012.

The organization says survey responses indicate total paper and paperboard capacity will remain flat in 2022, with increases in boxboard and newsprint, stability in containerboard and tissue and a decline in printing-writing.

The report details U.S. paper industry capacity data for 2021 and 2022 for all major grades of paper, paperboard and pulp, as well as fiber consumption, based on what the AF&PA says is a comprehensive survey of all U.S. pulp and paper mills. Data include responses from companies representing more than 88 percent of U.S. paper and paperboard capacity, with AF&PA noting that estimates completed the data set.

Several notable findings were among the results, including recovered paper consumption at U.S. paper and paperboard mills, which increased 3.9 percent in 2021—the highest level of recovered paper consumption by domestic mills since 2008. It also marks the highest-ever share of total fiber consumption at U.S. mills and the ninth consecutive year of increases in the share from 36 percent in 2012 to 41.6 percent in 2021.

Containerboard capacity expanded for the 11th consecutive year and reached a record high of 42.3 million tons. According to the AF&PA, it is the fastest rate of containerboard expansion in 25 years, and as a result of increases and decreases in other grades, containerboard share of total paper and paperboard capacity exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2021.

The AF&PA also notes boxboard capacity increased 0.6 percent in 2021, outperforming a long-term trend of a 0.4 percent decline and following a 2.5 percent decline last year.

Tissue paper capacity remained the same in 2021, according to the AF&PA.

The organization also says the U.S. paper and paperboard industry responded to shifting demands by repurposing nine machines to produce packaging grades.