The Northeast Recycling Council's (NERC) has published the latest update to its Summary of Announced Increased Capacity to Use Recycled Paper report. This update reflects continuing progress to use more recycled paper in North America. More than half of the projects are completed and others are moving towards their projected opening dates. Download the most recent report: Summary of Announced Increased Capacity to use Recycled Paper Updated March 2022
This update includes projects at 28 mills, of which 17 have been completed. The 17 completed projects include four new mills. When NERC first published this list in November 2018, it included new capacity at 17 mills, of which three projects were completed.
The list of additional recycled paper capacity includes new paper mills, expansion of existing capacity at packaging mills and conversions of printed paper machines at existing mills to produce packaging paper (e.g. from newsprint to packaging). The list also includes several mills that are now producing recycled fiber pulp for export in addition to making packaging paper. It also includes a mill designed to use food contaminated paper from commercial sources.
The majority of new capacity increases in this list are for mills producing linerboard and corrugated medium. They will use old corrugated containers (OCC), often-called “cardboard boxes”, as their feedstock. They are unlikely to use mixed paper, whether derived from residential or commercial recycling programs, unless their stock preparation system allows for its use. However, up to half of these mills plan to use mixed paper although it is likely to be a minor input. Several mills, however, plan to consume significant amounts of residential mixed paper (RMP) which is collected at curbsides throughout the country. Two of those mills are now operating. Because the price for mixed paper tracks that of old corrugated containers, increased capacity and market value for old corrugated containers normally increases the price paid for residential mixed paper.
Whether or not all of the new capacity is built depends on overall economic circumstances and demand for the final products. Announcement of a new mill does not guarantee it will be built due to the high costs of siting, permitting and building a new paper mill. Total announced new capacity, if all projects are completed, will use more than 8 million tons per year of OCC and mixed paper.
NERC has been reporting on national investment in paper recycling infrastructure since November 2018. The report has been updated eight times.