Frequently Asked Questions

The answers to the Frequently Asked Questions below were sourced from several of the organizations listed under the GreenSource tab.  Please contact us if you would like additional information about the data or information listed below.

What percentage of municipal solid waste is paper?
In the U.S., over 40 percent of municipal solid waste is paper about 71.8 million tons each year.

How much paper do Americans use in a year?
Every year, Americans use more than 90 million short tons of paper and paperboard. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Every year in America, more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published.

What percentage of paper used in the U.S. today is recycled?
Approximately half of the paper used in the U.S. today is recycled, much of it coming from commercial business recycling programs.

How many times can a piece of paper be recycled?
A single piece of paper may contain new fibers as well as fibers which have already been recycled once, twice, or several times. Papermaking fibers can typically be recycled 5-7 times before they become too short to be recycled again.

Why does paper need to be sorted before it’s recycled?
Successful recycling requires clean recovered paper which is free of contaminants such as food, plastic, metal, and other trash. Contaminated paper can introduce impurities and bacteria into the recycling process. Furthermore, different grades of paper – corrugated boxes, newspapers, and office paper – must be kept separate, because the different grades of recovered paper are used to make particular types of recycled paper products.

How can I find a community recycling program?
Today, 86 percent of Americans have access to community recycling programs. More than half of the U.S. population is served by more than 9,000 curbside collection programs, and another 165 million Americans have access to drop-off recycling programs. Community recycling programs play an essential part in educating residents about the importance of recycling and its environmental benefits. †For step by step guides that explain how to establish or improve a recycling program, or to find out more about local resources,

What are some examples of paper that can be recycled?
Paper items which can be recycled are white, colored and glossy papers (staples are okay), envelopes and mail, paper bags, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, wrapping paper, phonebooks, softcover books, cardboard egg cartons, catalogs, corrugated cardboard and smooth cardboard, which includes paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes and other packaged food boxes.
Paper items which you cannot recycle include hardcover books, soiled paper, waxed or plastic coated paper and soft paper products like tissues, napkins, toilet paper and paper towels.

What are the current goals to decrease paper waste and increase recycling?
The paper industry has set an aggressive new goal to recover 60 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. by 2012. This represents a tremendous increase in recovery, as each percentage point represents nearly one million additional tons of recovered paper – enough to fill more than 14,000 railroad cars.

How much of a tree is used to make paper?
Only about one-third of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S. is from whole trees, which the industry calls round wood. It is not considered economical to use large logs for paper when they could instead be used for lumber. For this reason, only trees smaller than 8 inches in diameter, or larger trees not suitable for solid wood products, typically are harvested for papermaking.

How much paper can be made from one tree?
It is impossible to specify how much paper can be made from one tree, due to its complicated process and multiple factors which impact production.  However,  if we assume that the following paper products have been produced using 100 percent hardwood. A cord of wood is approximately 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high. A cord of air-dried, dense hardwood (oak, hickory, etc.) weighs roughly 2 tons, about 15-20 percent of which is water.

It has been estimated that one cord of this wood will yield one of these approximate quantities of products:

Source: A Tree for Each American, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC.