Paper Recycling Levels Remain High

Washington, DC - U.S. recycling levels have remained high in the face of sharp declines in domestic consumption, according to a report from the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA). In particular, total recovery of paper and paperboard for domestic use and export rose 1.1 percent in 2000 and then held about stable in 2001, the association said.

This stability has been achieved even though apparent consumption of paper and paperboard- domestic production plus imports less exports- declined by 2.2 percent in 2000 and 5.1 percent in 2001.

The paper recovery for 2000 has been revised down to 45.8 percent from the previously reported rate of 48 percent. This revision reflects updated data regarding mill consumption of recovered paper as reported in the December 2001 AF&PA Capacity Survey.

The recovery rate is estimated to have rebounded to 48.3 percent in 2001 as recovery levels held stable, while apparent consumption of paper and paperboard contracted by 5.1 percent. In essence, recovery held its ground in the face of contracting consumption, which caused the recovery rate - recovery as a percent of apparent consumption of paper and paperboard - to increase.

As to the components of paper recovery, AF&PA found that U.S. mill consumption of recovery paper declined 3.5 percent in 2000 and 1.4 percent in 2001. The utilization rate, which is defined as recovered paper consumption at U.S. mills as a percent of paper and paperboard production, declined from 37.1 percent in 1999 to 36.8 percent in 2000. However, it jumped to an all-time high of 38.4 percent last year, as production of paper and paperboard declined more sharply than U.S. mill consumption of recovered paper in 2001.

Exports of recovered paper eked out a small gain of 1.7 percent in 2001 after leaping 21 percent in 2000. The small increase was largely fueled by exports to China, which surged almost 75 percent last year. China has now displaced Canada as the leading export market for U.S. recovered paper. Exports of recovered paper to most other major customer markets, including Canada, Mexico and South Korea, declined last year.