Cathy Foley

High paper recycling rates important to AF&PA

American exports of recycled paper remain strong and initiatives to meet that demand are being developed and discussed. The nation uses an enormous amount of paper annually and more than 50 percent is recovered through recycling programs.

Cathy Foley, vice president of the American Forest & Paper Association’s (AF&PA) Paper Sector, is keen to see recycling rates remain strong and devotes a good percentage of her time and effort promoting recycling.

Question: A record collection rate for paper recycling was achieved in 2006 in the United States. Will this be repeated in 2007 or are you expecting an even higher rate?

Answer: Data from the annual AF&PA Capacity Report is used to determine the recovery rate, and will be available in late March. All indicators suggest that paper recovery rates remain at their highest levels to date.

Question: What are the challenges concerning the collection of paper products and what is being done to maximize collection?

Answer: According to the latest AF&PA Community Survey (conducted in 2004), 86 percent of the population has access to curbside or drop-off paper and paperboard recycling programs. That survey is currently being updated, and results will be available in late spring.

This widespread availability of paper recycling programs has certainly helped us achieve record high recovery rates nationwide. In order to continue to increase recovery, AF&PA works in partnership with organizations including the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Keep America Beautiful to educate targeted audiences about the need for increased recovery. We also highlight successful school, college/university, business, and community recycling programs through the AF&PA Recycling Awards.

Question: Are government, commercial and institutional offices doing their part to maximize paper recycling and if not, what more should they be doing?

Answer: In 2006, 49 percent of printing-writing papers were recovered for recycling, indicating an opportunity for us to do more in this area. There are often challenges around office recycling, including multi-tenant buildings, different haulers for different buildings in the same area, and education about what can and cannot be recycled.

AF&PA is working with our partner organizations to support pilot office recycling programs that can be replicated around the country.

Question: Would you endorse an up-front fee on the purchase of paper products to ensure that funding is available to finance paper recycling programs and in particular, education programs geared towards adults and children?

Answer: Paper recycling is a true success story in that it is a voluntary action that millions of Americans take part in daily. Further, while once a small effort that was undertaken simply because of the environmental benefits, paper recycling has now become a significant and global industry. AF&PA has long advocated that markets should be the driver behind paper recovery and recycling.

Question: How much paper is lost due to contamination at the curbside and commercial recycling stage and how can this be avoided? Are serious attempts being made by solid waste agencies to reduce this contamination?

Answer: AF&PA does not have data on levels of contamination at various recycling outlets. Communication and education about the expectations for fiber being collected for recovery and reports on what is actually being collected can be extremely useful in continuing efforts to maintain high quality.