Paper is a fixture in everyone’s lives. Whether it’s your to-go coffee cup on your way to work, a printed work presentation, or the cardboard box that brings your online grocery order, paper comes in many essential forms that make our everyday lives possible.
Because of the ubiquitous nature of paper and packaging, you might not realize that paper is one of the most sustainable materials around. That’s because paper products are made from tree fiber, an infinitely renewable resource. As part of the larger forest products industry, the paper manufactures help contribute to the protection and growth of the United States forests on which they rely. As a consumer, you play a big part in ensuring that this natural resource is nurtured and abundant because a healthy market for forest products encourages forest owners to plant more trees.
Paper is the most recycled material in the U.S.
Paper can be recycled to make new products up to seven times. The natural cellulose fibers in paper break down easily so they can be recycled into a new item, often balanced with fresh fiber as needed with subsequent generations of recycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more paper by weight is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum combined. In 2020, 65.7 percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled, maintaining a recycling rate that has been consistently high for over a decade.
U.S. forestlands are growing — thanks in part to paper.
More than one-third of the United States is populated by forests (766 million acres), and over 1 billion trees are planted each year. More than half of forestland is privately own and provide over 90% of the forest products in the United States, which includes paper and paper-based packaging and boxes. In creating wood and paper products, forest owners in the U.S. grow about twice the volume of timber that is removed annually. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the amount of forestland grows every day by 2,275 football fields (that’s almost 33 million acres in the last 30 years).
The paper industry supports wildlife.
With so many new trees planted every day, the paper industry helps ensure healthy forestation at every life cycle stage. Nascent forests are vitally important for biodiversity, as they provide thriving habitats for smaller animals. As the trees grow and mature, thinning out the forests can promote sunlight exposure and increased benefits for the area’s larger wildlife.
Innovation gives consumers more sustainable choices.
Paper is more than packaging and reading materials. As the industry continues to innovate, paper continues to be an essential resource. From cardboard coolers to paper beverage rings, new products make life more convenient for consumers and help enable them to practice good environmental stewardship.
The paper industry is investing in the future.
Ultimately, protecting our planet and our forestland is vital for the health and safety of future generations, and the paper industry is committed to investing in continued sustainable practices. From 2019-2023, the paper industry will contribute $5 billion in manufacturing infrastructure to continue the best use of recycled fiber in new products. As e-commerce grows, recovering the cardboard shipping boxes is critical to keeping the fiber in the recycling stream.
When you use paper-based products, you play a part in continuing the cycle of environmental support, from working with private forest owners to ensure an abundance of trees for future generations to innovating recycling processes and new product designs that make the most of all the natural resources. Learn how you can be a force for nature at PaperForNature.com.