National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
E: info@wasterecycling.org
Find us on Google

To use our contact form and to subscribe to our free publications, click here.
Media: Chris Doherty at 202-364-3751 or cdoherty@wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at beginwiththebin.org.

Recycling Paper

What do you need to know about recycling paper?

FACT: Every ton of mixed paper recycled can save the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline.

As Americans, we generate a lot of paper – about 69 million tons in 2012[1]. Paper is very useful – we use it everywhere, all the time. Since the invention of paper in ancient China in the 2nd century BCE (Egyptians were using a paper-like material called papyrus far earlier), human civilization has advanced because of the spread of ideas – on paper. We owe a lot to paper. Now it’s time to give paper a break!

As our world becomes more and more tech-savvy – sending emails rather than paper correspondence, reading literature on mobile devices, etc. – per capita paper consumption is declining in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper use crested in 2002 in the U.S. However, even with that decline, paper still constitutes nearly one third of our trash.  We recycle a lot of it – with 65 percent of paper (and paperboard) packaging being recycled in 2012[2].

How can you reduce, reuse, and recycle paper more effectively?

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Recycle your newspapers, magazines, and catalogs with your curbside municipal recycling program (if you don’t have a program, find a public drop-off point for your recyclables, including paper).
  • Take brown paper bags back to the store for recycling, or eliminate your use of grocery bags (paper and plastic) by using cloth tote bags.
  • Empty and flatten cardboard boxes for recycling, or use your cardboard to line your compost pile. Remember that wet or greasy cardboard (like pizza boxes) generally cannot be recycled. Likewise, waxed paper containers like large fruit boxes don’t go in the recycling bin.  
  • Recycle books by donating them to local libraries, schools, charitable organizations and hospitals. Trade books with friends, or take advantage of web sites like www.PaperBackSwap.com or www.Freecycle.org to trade your books online.

And, when in doubt contact your local Recycling services provider.

How is paper recycled?

Recycled paper processing mills use paper as their feedstock. The recovered paper is combined with water in a large vessel called a pulper, which acts like a blender to separate fibers in the paper sheets. The resultant paper material then passes through screens and other separation processes to remove contaminants such as ink, clays, dirt, plastic and metals.

Paper is recycled back into all sorts of products. Fibers from newspaper can be recycled back into newspaper, as well as paper game boards, or paper animal bedding. Paper fibers from office paper are recycled into tissue paper, paper towels and toilet paper.

Making new paper from recycled paper uses up to 55 percent less energy than making paper from trees, and reduces related air pollution by 95 percent. Imagine all the things that can be done with recycled paper!

The Numbers: Paper

  • Total paper generated in 2012: 68.6 million tons 
  • Paper recycled in 2012: 44.4 million tons (a 64.6% recovery rate)[3]27 states have voluntary or mandatory recycled fiber requirements
  • Paper and paperboard discards after recovery: 24.3 million tons or 15 percent of total MSW discards in 2011.
  • Source reduction: Newspapers use a lighter paper weight and smaller paper size. “Web width” has decreased from 48 inches to as low as 42 inches.