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[GreenYes] US paper recycling nears 50 percent, industry says
US paper recycling nears 50 percent, industry says

USA: March 13, 2001

NEW YORK - Despite layoffs and mill closures, work
shift cuts, lower profits and higher energy costs, one
piece of good news emerged from the depressed
wood and paper industry yesterday - Americans are
recycling more paper. 

While that may be good news for environmentalists, it is
even more significant for the forest products companies
because the cost of fiber - the raw material for paper and
other products - is much lower when the fiber is recycled, or
"recovered," than when it is "virgin," or straight from the

Henson Moore, president and chief executive officer of the
American Forest & Paper Association, told reporters at the
AF&PA's "Paper Week" conference that the industry was
nearing the 50 percent goal for U.S. paper recovery it set in

Moore said the recovery rate rose to 48 percent last year
from 45 percent in 1999. That means nearly half of all paper
produced in the United States is now collected for

This translates to Americans recycling 49.4 million tons of
the paper and cardboard consumed in the United States, a
5.6 percent increase over 1999.

Breaking it down into paper types, Moore said newspaper
recycling last year reached a high of 71 percent from 68
percent the year before, while the amount of recovered
corrugated cardboard used in packaging rose from 61
percent to 75 percent.

So-called mixed paper, which comprises office paper and
magazines, was up 11 percent from 1999 with a recovery
rate of about 37 percent, Moore said.

Listing several factors such as taxation, the strength of the
dollar and spiraling energy costs that have hurt the industry
in the last few years, Moore singled out the cost of the raw

"By far and away the biggest cost in making a profit, be it a
paper or a wood product, is the fiber cost," said Moore,
whose association represents about 140 U.S. companies
that manufacture pulp, paper, paperboard and wood
products. "It's the number one competitiveness problem we

"This (recycling) is not a pubic relations thing. That's nice,
but it's a way of increasing fiber in our mills," he added.


Moore said there were several reasons for the rise in
recycling, which was at around 33 percent in 1988 when the
industry first measured it. In addition to more domestic
pressure from environmental groups for more recycling of
resources, there was strong overseas demand for exported
recycled fiber.

"This represents the efforts of the industry and the
American people," said Moore. "And I think we can make it
(the 50 percent goal) in a couple of years time frame."

He said the latest figures showed the United States was
just behind Japan and Germany, which have recycling rates
in the low-to mid-50 percent range.

Pete Grogan, manager of market development for
Weyerhaeuser Co. and a member of the AF&PA's recycling
committee, said the new rate was "gratifying," with potential
for more exports.

"China is becoming a very strong consumer and now
surpasses Japan, Korea and Taiwan for imported recycled
paper from the United States," he told reporters.

In reducing costs, Moore also talked about the AF&PA's
Sustainable Forestry Initiative, by which forests are
replanted after trees are harvested. He said 94 million acres
in North America are now under the SFI, which it launched
six years ago.

The policy is a requirement of AF&PA membership and
Moore said 17 companies had been expelled for not
endorsing it. SFI means not only that large areas of
timberlands are preserved, but also ensures a supply of
virgin fiber for America's mills to supplement recycled fiber.

Moore said the association had taken no official position on
the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, which is
due to expire on March 31. The SLA includes quota
restrictions limiting the amount of softwood lumber, used
extensively in home building, that is imported from Canada.

However, when asked about the new Bush administration,
he said he was "cautiously optimistic" that "dealing with
this administration may be better than (with) the last."

The earnings of U.S. forest products companies have
recently been hit hard by the slowing economy, low
demand and prices and high energy costs. 

Story by Steve James 


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