Packaging: Corrugated recovery hits 91%

In 2012, 91 percent (29 million tons) of the corrugated packaging used in the U.S. was successfully recovered for recycling, maintaining its top position as the most-recycled packaging material.

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In 2012, 91 percent (29 million tons) of the corrugated packaging used in the U.S. was successfully recovered for recycling, maintaining its top position as the most-recycled packaging material.

Recovery for recycling has increased steadily since 1993, when 54.5 percent of old corrugated containers (OCC) was recycled.  Recovery is also helped by the widespread access to community paper and paper-based packaging recycling programs.  According to the American Forest & Paper Association’s Community Survey, 87 percent (268 million) of the U.S. population have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs.

Most OCC is used to make new paper products.  Of the 91 percent of corrugated that was recovered in 2012, more than 50 percent was used to make new containerboard.  An additional 12 percent was used to make recycled paperboard and more than 34 percent was exported.

Corrugated and the other paper-based packaging industries set the standard for recovery.  According to the most recent data available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States; 2010 Facts and Figures, the corrugated and paper-based packaging industries set the standard for recovering products from the solid waste management stream.

The table below reflects data drawn from the EPA report and compares recovery rates for several major packaging materials. The data show that corrugated and paper-based packaging have the highest recovery rates among these major commodities.

The corrugated industry continues to support the increased OCC recovery for recycling by:
Modernizing equipment and technology so that OCC can be used at the manufacturing facilities.
Supporting business, community, and school recycling programs.
Developing a repulpability/recyclability standard protocol for corrugated boxes treated for moisture resistance.

For more information about paper and corrugated recycling, please visit http://www.paperrecycles.org.  For information about corrugated packaging’s life-cycle studies and sustainability, visit http://www.corrugated.org.


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