Recovered fibre refers to any fibre that is recycled, that is to say, used more than once in the manufacture of a paper or board product. Recycling has become a high-profile issue in most industrialized countries over the past 10 to 30 years, and this is reflected in the high levels of wastepaper recovery that these countries report.

In the recycling process, there are usually many unknowns, including the fibre species, the number of times that the fibre has been recycled, and the pulping method used in fibre production. Traditionally, the impact of recycling has been examined through measuring the quality of the paper produced after a controlled series of pulping, digesting, and recovery. The fibre quality, in terms of strength, flexibility, and bond-ability, can also be measured. While the individual results of such testing vary greatly, the overall trends are fairly consistent.

The main factor affecting the recyclability of paper is the pulping method used. It has been shown that high-yield pulps, such as chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp (CTMP) and thermo-mechanical pulp (TMP), respond better to recycling due to their ability to reabsorb water after being dried in paper. Lower-yield chemical pulps, such as soda or kraft, tend to become more brittle and therefore less flexible as the number of recycles increase. This greatly reduces the recyclability of some of these pulps.

For all pulps, the first recycle causes the greatest change in any paper or fibre property. Most paper properties tend to decline, although some measurements, such as tear, may show temporary increases. Declines in paper properties seem to arise from the reduction of fibre bonding ability. This reduction may be due to hornification, a stiffening and/or hardening of the fibre, which in turn causes a drop in the number and strength of inter fibre bonds. The intrinsic strength of the fibre may also decrease, although some researchers have reported no change or even increases in individual fibre strength properties. In most cases, however, changes in paper and fibre properties tended to level out after four or five recycles, implying that the most degradation takes place in the first few cycles.

It may be inferred that four or five recycles is the uppermost limit that can be achieved in fibre recycling. Recovered fibres do not last forever. It is also important to note that wastepaper, like any other fibre source, does not provide a 100 percent yield in the papermaking process. In fact, the yield on recovered fibres is about 80 percent.

There are three categories of paper that can be used as feed stocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste. Broke is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper, and is recycled internally in a paper mill. Pre-consumer waste is material which left the paper mill but was discarded before it was ready for consumer use. Post-consumer waste is material discarded after consumer use, such as old corrugated containers (OCC), old magazines, and newspapers.


waste paper bale      waste paper bale      waste paper bale


Visit Waste Paper Grades for various grades of waste papers


Europe Recovered Paper Grades 
US Recovered Paper Grades
South African Standard Grade Definition for Recovered Paper


Top 5 Recovered Paper Producing/Collection Countries  (Million Metric Ton in 2014)

Countries Million MT
  Production Imports Exports Net Consumption
World 221.1 55.9 55.4 221.6
China 53.7 28.3 1.1 81.0
USA 46.4 0.78 19.1 28.1
Japan 21.8 0.0 4.6 17.2
Germany 15.1 3.96 2.4 16.7
Korea Republic (South) 8.6 1.54 0.48 9.7

Top 5 Recovered Paper  Importing Countries  (Million Metric Ton in 2014)

Countries Million MT
  Production Imports Exports Net Consumption
World 221.1 55.91 55.4 221.6
China 53.7 28.32 1.1 80.9
Germany 15.1 3.96 2.4 16.7
India 2.64 3.07 0 5.71
Indonesia 3.93 2.28 0.018 6.2
Netherland 2.20 2.11 2.47 1.9

Top 5 Recovered Paper Exporting Countries  (Million Metric Ton in 2014)

Countries Million MT
  Production Imports Exports Net Consumption
World 221.1 55.9 55.4 221.6
USA 46.4 0.78 19.1 28.1
Japan 21.8 0.03 4.6 17.2
UK 8.0 0.14 4.4 3.7
France 7.3 0.84 2.9 5.4
Netherland 2.2 2.11 2.5 1.9

Top 5 Recovered Paper Consuming Countries  (Million Metric Ton in 2014)

Countries Million MT
  Production Imports Exports Net Consumption
World 221.1 55.9 55.4 221.6
China 53.7 28.3 1.07 80.9
USA 46.4 0.8 19.1 28.1
Japan 21.8 0.03 4.6 17.2
Germany 15.1 3.96 2.4 16.7
Korea (South) 8.6 1.55 0.49 9.7

Status of Paper Recycling in USA


Paper & Paperboard Recovery (Source ISRI )

Recovered fiber, also known as recovered paper and board, is one of the most widely recycled materials in the world. Since 1990, Americans have recycled nearly 1.1 billion tons of recovered fiber as the recovery rate for paper and paperboard in the United States increased by 30 percent to reach 65.4 percent in 2014. The paper recycling segment of the scrap recycling industry collects, sorts, and processes the recovered fiber into specification grade products that were valued at $7.8 billion in 2014. These products are sold and transported to paper mills at home and worldwide for production into new packaging, office paper, tissue, newsprint, and a multitude of other paper products.


In the United States, approximately 76 percent of paper mills rely on recovered fiber to make some or all of their products due in part to recovered paper’s significant cost and energy savings. In addition, the paper and fiber recovered in the United States helps to meet growing overseas demand: recovered paper was exported to more than 85 different countries last year at a value of approximately $3.2 billion, not including the tremendous environmental benefits and energy savings, while significantly helping our balance of trade.

The US recovered 52.0 Million Ton of paper in 2015 and this accounts for 66.8% of paper consumed in US. It is approximately 315 lbs per person in US.

(000 tons)
(000 tons)
Recovery Rate
1990 86,796 29,112 33.5%
1991 85,071 31,201 36.7%
1992 88,273 33,954 38.5%
1993 91,538 35,460 38.7%
1994 95,718 39,691 41.5%
1995 95,971 42,189 44.0%
1996 94,529 43,076 45.6%
1997 99,557 43,989 44.2%
1998 101,183 45,077 44.6%
1999 105,316 46,818 44.5%
2000 102,810 47,311 46.0%
2001 97,395 46,996 48.3%
2002 98,949 47,645 48.2%
2003 98,018 49,255 50.3%
2004 101,884 50,187 49.3%
2005 99,613 51,272 51.5%
2006 100,665 53,314 53.0%
2007 97,007 54,325 56.0%
2008 89,838 51,822 57.7%
2009 78,711 50,036 63.6%
2010 81,784 51,545 63.0%
2011 78,959 52,767 66.4%
2012 78,619 51,092 65.0%
2013 78,761 50,128 63.6%
2014 78,206 51,171 65.4%
2015 77,895 52,040 66.8%

21.2 million tons of recovered paper was exported to 85 countries including Canada, China, India, South Korea and Mexico in 2014:

• 2.4 million tons of printed news
• 9.7 million tons of corrugated cardboard
• 4.6 million tons of mixed paper
• 0.8 million tons of high-grade paper
• 2.3 million tons of other mechanical paper
• 1.2 million tons of pulp substitutes.

91% of corrugated container and 70% of newspapers consumed were recovered in 2012.

About 36% of the fiber used to make paper products comes from recycled paper.

Corrugated Recovery Hits 91 Percent,

Maintains Top Position As Most-Recycled Packaging Material

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 6, 2013) In 2012, 91 percent (29 million tons) of the corrugated packaging used in the U.S. was successfully recovered for recycling, maintaining its top position as the most-recycled packaging material.

Recovery for recycling has increased steadily since 1993, when 54.5 percent of old corrugated containers (OCC) was recycled. Recovery is also helped by the widespread access to community paper and paper-based packaging recycling programs. According to the American Forest & Paper Association’s Community Survey, 87 percent (268 million) of the U.S. population have access to curb side or drop-off recycling programs.

Most OCC is used to make new paper products. Of the 91 percent of corrugated that was recovered in 2012, more than 50 percent was used to make new containerboard. An additional 12 percent was used to make recycled paperboard and more than 34 percent was exported.

Where OCC Goes              000 tons                 %

Containerboard                     14,588                50.1

Recycled Paperboard             3,510                 12.0

Packaging & Industrial             484                    1.7

Tissue                                     224                     0.9

Newsprint                               0                          0

Other                                     251                     0.9

Net Exports                         10,007                 34.6

Total                                 29,134                     100

Source: AF&PA

Making strides in newspaper recycling

In the past two decades, NAA’s member newspapers have voluntarily committed to using recycled-content newsprint. Consider these facts:

  • In 1989, 35 percent of all old newspapers were recycled. Today, more than 72 percent of all old newspapers in the United States are recovered and recycled.  That exemplary recovery rate dramatically helps reduce the impact on forests, dependency on imported oil and the need for more landfills.
  • The average amount of recycled-fiber content in newsprint used by U.S. newspapers has increased from 10 percent in 1989 to almost 30 percent today.
  • A typical newspaper can be recycled up to seven times. Because the de-inking process can wear out the material, there is a limit to how many times recovered fibers can be recycled.
  • Not only are old newspapers used to produce recycled newsprint, they also are recycled into other products: cellulose insulation materials, cereal boxes, egg cartons, grocery bags, pencil barrels, tissue paper and more. In many cases, manufacturing of these products is more economical and environmentally friendly than shipping old newspapers to distant mills for recycling.
  • While newspapers continue to demand recycled-content newsprint, the overall supply of newsprint has declined. Over the last decade, some recycled-content newsprint mills have closed while others have shifted from producing newsprint to producing higher grades of paper. Newsprint manufacturers also have a harder time obtaining quality recovered fiber because of increased demand for fiber from export markets.

Making a difference in newspaper production

While all newspapers must comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, newspapers represented by NAA have made substantial investments to improve operational efficiency and to reduce their impact on the environment:

  • Since the late 1980s, newspapers have been using soy-based color ink and water-based inks that emit less volatile organic compounds.  The EPA considers VOCs to be a contributor to air pollution because they lead to the formation of ozone in the atmosphere - a component of smog.
  • A number of newspapers have converted from 48-inch to 46-, 44- or 42-inch web widths to reduce the amount of newsprint consumed.
  • Newspapers are using lighter-weight newsprint, which also reduces consumption.
  • Newspapers are moving from wooden pallets to plastic, reusable skids.

Source NAA