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Paper mills are America’s recycling centers.

All the used magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes collected across the nation – more than 44 million tons per year – are recycled by paper mills into new products.  Paper fibers can be recycled 5-8 times, making it one of the most useable recyclable materials produced today.  Each day, U.S. papermakers recycle enough paper to fill a 15-mile long train.

The U.S. has made great strides in recycling over the last 20 years.  In 2011, almost 67% of all paper consumed in the U.S. was recycled, nearly double the rate in 1990 – and the goal is to increase that to 70% by 2020.  That compares to only a 27.1% recycling rate for glass, 19.9% for aluminum and 8.2% for plastics.

Northwest paper producers are leading the way.

  • At Inland Empire Paper Company’s facility near Spokane, 100 percent of their products are made from wood waste and recycled material.

  • Because of recycling efforts by Oregon’s paper mills, nearly 97 percent of the cardboard used in the state is recycled.

  • Northwest mills recycle millions of used newspapers each day.


Recycling paper is important because it makes more efficient use of timber resources, saves landfill space and creates a valuable market commodity.  According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the market value of paper recycled in 2010 was $8.9 billion.

But recycling involves more than creating new products from discarded material.  It also includes recycling the resources used in the paper production process.

Since 1975, paper mills have decreased by half the amount of water needed to make a ton of product, and the water used in the paper making process is now recycled several times before being treated and returned to the river.

Pulp producers are also becoming more efficient by turning what used to be considered waste – namely biomass – into energy. Biomass is defined as any plant material, but in the Northwest, biomass is composed of forest debris, wood chips, bark, shavings and pulping liquor, a byproduct of the pulp making process is now used in paper mills to heat boilers and generate electricity. Paper mills are the leading producers and users of carbon-neutral, renewable biomass energy, which produces more energy than solar, wind and geothermal energy combined. Using biomass to heat boilers and generate electricity reduces the use of fossil fuels, cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces the amount of waste deposited in landfills.

Making efficient use of natural resources and transforming used material into new products is the hallmark of Northwest paper producers.

In 2011, almost
67% of all paper consumed in the U.S. was recycled, nearly double the rate in 1990.
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