Ahead of Schedule

Paper recycling goal is met five years early.

Americans Recycled 56 percent of the paper they consumed last year, setting an all-time record for the country. The record means the paper industry achieved its goal of a 55 percent recycling rate by 2012, which was set in 2003. As a result, the industry has adjusted its 2012 goal to 60 percent.

According to the Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), which compiles the paper industry's annual recycling statistics, 54.3 million tons of paper were recovered in 2007, compared to a 53 percent recycling rate and 53 million tons recovered in 2006.

Cathy Foley, vice president of AF&PA Paper Group, explains that good recycling habits for newspaper and corrugated containers were a major reason the goal was reached five years early. “But, in order to reach 60 percent recovery, we will have to increase the collection of all grades, including printing and writing papers, catalogs, direct mail, and paper packaging in schools, offices and homes,” she says.

In 2007, Americans recycled nearly 25 million more tons than they did in 1990. The increase reduced emissions by more than 97 million metric tons, which is comparable to the annual emissions of roughly 18 million cars. AF&PA has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Stamford, Conn.-based Keep America Beautiful to encourage paper recycling, and Foley says it will continue to do so to reach the new goal.

“Industry is demonstrating a real commitment to environmental sustainability by continuing to set and achieve aggressive paper recovery goals,” said Donna Harman, AF&PA president and CEO, in a press release.