EVERY TIME PAPER IS RECYCLED, THE FIBERS GET WEAKER AND SHORTER. AFTER BEING RECYCLED 5 TO 7 TIMES, THE FIBERS BECOME TO SHORT TO BOND INTO NEW PAPER.
Overall, a technical maximum of 67% to 73% of fibrous inputs used to make paper products can be supplied by wastepaper; the rest needs to be virgin fibers.
Van Ewijk et al., 2017
Using the right fiber for an application is important because fresh and recycled fibers have different characteristics. As fiber quality deteriorates in the recycling process, fresh fibers are always needed in the recycling loop. Because of fast cycles, fiber would run out in about six months if fresh fiber were not constantly added to the life cycle. The addition of fresh fiber starts either with the production of products that need specific fiber properties or with the combination with recycled fibers.1
In 2019, recovered paper accounted for 40% of total U.S. fiber consumption to make new paper products.2 Approximately 80% of all U.S. paper mills use some recovered fiber to make everything from paper-based packaging to tissue products to office paper and newspaper.3
In 2019, 37.8% of recovered paper in the U.S. was used to manufacture containerboard, 12.2% for boxboard and 8.4% for tissue paper. A total of 5.8% of recovered paper was used in newsprint, other printing and writing grades, kraft packaging and industrial converting, construction paper and board, and molded pulp. The remaining 35.7% was exported.4
1 World Economic Forum, Design and Management for Circularity, 2016
2 American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), 2020
3 AF&PA, 2019
4 AF&PA, 2020