A record amount of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recycled last year, and an increasing portion of paper and paperboard is being exported to China, the paper industry’s trade group said Monday.
The statistics released by the American Forest and Paper Association show paper and pulp companies are increasingly supplying a global market for recycled paper products. Exports of paper to be recycled have doubled since the late 1990s, according to the trade group’s statistics.
Last year, 32 percent of paper collected for recycling in the U.S. was exported, with about 10 million tons going to China, the leading export destination, the paper association said. Stan Lancey, the trade group’s chief economist, said growing demand in China for newsprint and packaging material is driving increased demand for imports of recyclable paper.
The paper industry association said 53.4 percent of paper consumed nationwide last year, or 53.5 million tons, was recycled. That number includes ‘post-consumer’ paper products, such as newsprint, tissues or office paper as well as waste from paper mills.
The 2006 recycling levels represent an increase from the 2005 recycling rate of 51.5 percent, or 51.3 million tons.
Recycling levels have been gradually increasing since 1990, when the rate was below 35 percent, according to the trade group. Americans are recycling 360 pounds of paper per person annually, up from 233 pounds per person in 1990.
‘We are encouraged by both the quantity and quality of paper being recovered, but we still have an opportunity to bump this number even higher by increasing recovery of high quality paper found in offices and schools,’ Juanita Duggan, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement. The paper industry has set a goal of recycling 55 percent of paper produced by 2012.
Members of the trade group include Rock-Tenn Co., Abitibi Consolidated Inc., Weyerhaeuser Co and Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.