Recycling & End of Life

Paper recovery is one of the best - and yet little-known - environmental success stories in the world.

The market for recovered fiber is strong, and is expected to grow by 35 percent between 2008 and 2018. This market is driven not by government mandates, but by economics. Recovered fiber can serve as a low-cost alternative to new wood fiber in many products. Today well over half the fiber used for papermaking around the world is recovered fiber (see chart).*

Because recovering paper makes economic sense, it happens at a high rate. Globally, about 55 percent of paper is recovered, and some countries have significantly higher recovery rates: Europe, 71 percent; Japan, 70 percent; and the United States, 64 percent. By contrast, the U.S. EPA reports that plastics are recovered in the United States at only a 9 percent rate and electronics at 25 percent.

“Wood fiber recovery in the U.S. is a significant environmental success story. Our Fiber Sourcing and Recycling teams continue to build upon that success by working with generators and suppliers to identify and capture new sources of recyclable materials.”

Beyond economics, recovering wood fiber from the waste stream has three other important benefits. First, it supplies a key raw material to make useful, necessary products in regions of the world that do not have a readily available supply of sustainably managed wood, like many parts of Asia.

Second, it keeps the wood fiber from ending up in a landfill, extending the life of the landfill. It also means that the methane gas that would have been created if paper decomposed in a landfill (without oxygen) is avoided; methane is a potent greenhouse gas. (Paper decomposing in the presence of oxygen emits CO2 but not methane).

Third, recovering the fiber means it gets reused; when this is done efficiently, under market-based conditions, it makes both environmental and economic sense.

Recycling & Overall Trends

International Paper is the largest single user of wood fiber in the world. We rely on a healthy, ongoing supply of wood through the careful management practices of our wood suppliers, and we use fiber that has been recovered. In the United States, we recover, process, or facilitate the sale of more than 6 million tons of recovered fiber each year, making us one of the larger recyclers of paper in the country.

Kwidzyn Wins European Recycling Council Praise

International Paper’s Kwidzyn plant in Poland won commendation in the annual Confederation of European Paper Industry recycling awards hosted at the European Parliament in Brussels for its entry, “Seventh Heaven for Newspapers”— a project launched at over 60 schools in the Polish region of Pomerania that aims to educate and promote paper recycling among children. These educational efforts will ensure less waste goes to landfills and more fiber goes to produce new, fully recyclable and sustainable paper products. The program’s name arises from the fact that newspapers can be recycled between four and seven times. So far, 130,000 kilograms of wastepaper has been collected by International Paper Kwidzyn from the institutions in the project.

Recovery & Reuse Strategy for North America

Our plan for meeting our 2020 recycling goal, developed in 2012, has three elements:

  • Build
  • Collaborate
  • Acquire

 Visit our North America Sustainability section to read more.