If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what really happens to all of the paper products that get stuffed into recycling bins at your office, school, or home, here’s an encouraging statistic: The American Forest & Paper Association reports that in 2008, a record high 57.4 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. That’s 340 pounds of paper recycled for each man, woman and child in America. The uplifting stat shows impressive growth, with a jump from 56 percent in 2007 and 53 percent in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Paper Industry Association Council (PIAC), shows that about two-thirds of the paper recovered for recycling in the U.S. is used domestically, with containerboard being the largest end-use, accounting for 31 percent of total collections. And there’s more good news to add to these inspiring figures: In 2008, more than 80 percent of old corrugated (cardboard) containers was recovered for recycling across the United States.

This is cause for celebration among dedicated recyclers, but the paper industry has its eyes set on even loftier goals. They hope to recover 60 percent of the paper Americans consume by 2012, which shouldn’t be too tough considering that the PIAC tells us that 86 percent (254 million) of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs.

Curious about how paper recycling actually works? Check out PIAC’s page, Paper recycling from curb to consumer. There’s also an interactive map on paper and paperboard collection by state, as well as lesson plans, videos on the paper-making process, and community, school and workplace recycling guides.

The more we recycle, the more we can conserve and protect our natural resources. In addition to recycling, you can help by purchasing paper products made with a high recycled content — including high post-consumer content — and by encouraging manufacturers to use recycled content.

See also:

Recycled paper products