New Paper Recovery Data Shows Impact of Recession, Digital Media

TOTAL PAPER RECOVERY RATE IN THE UNITED STATES, THROUGH 2011. Source: American Forest & Paper Association, www.paperrecycles.org, March 2012.

TOTAL PRINTING & WRITING PAPER RECOVERY RATE IN THE UNITED STATES, THROUGH 2011. Source: American Forest & Paper Association, www.paperrecycles.org, March 2012.

New data from the American Forest & Paper Association regarding paper recovery rates in the United States has some good news—and not-so-good news—regarding U.S. recycling collection. As marketers, we need to pay close attention to these rates, and take active steps to support increased recovery, since such recovery can have positive impact on recycled paper supply and pricing, as well as other marketplace concerns regarding our print communications and paper packaging.

The good news is that the paper business has continued to increase recovery rates for all types of paper, achieving a record 66.8-percent recovery for the nation [see the first image in the media player at right].

For printing and writing grades, recovery rates slipped from its 2009 recovery percentage peak of 61.0 percent, now registering a 56.8-percent recovery rate, but still ahead of the pre-recession recovery rate [see the second image in the media player at right].

In both the overall market for all grades combined, and the printing & writing grades market, the peak year for paper consumption (the bars on both of the preceding graphs) was pre-recession 2007, a high point we have yet to re-attain in both categories as our economy has returned to tepid growth.

However, by looking at just printing & writing grades consumption, the falloff from the 2007 peak, and the lack of recovery, is far more pronounced than in the paper market overall—fully a 23.7-percent drop from 2007 to 2011. This is certainly a sign that while the recession prompted a pullback, digital media has brought on a migration from print communications, and most certainly in postal mail. That data is supported by declining U.S. Postal Service First-Class Mail volume data, and near-minimal growth in Standard Mail.

Thus, the generally higher recovery rates are generated by higher recycling collection activity or perhaps a more expansive recovery infrastructure, but also by source reduction—there’s just less printing and writing papers being generated.

Marketing Sustainably: What's Going on Beyond and Beneath the Green? A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing.

Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated direct marketing. He serves on the Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York and Direct Marketing Idea eXchange, and is a former member of DMA's Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility, where he led the Marketing & Communications Public Outreach Strategy Working Group (2005-2012).

Chet co-developed the first professional certificate program in environmentally responsible marketing within the United States. He also served on the United States Postal Service Greening the Mail Task Force (2007-2010), and led its Life Cycle of Mail Subcommittee. He loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too!

Email Chet below, or reach him at Twitter or LinkedIn.

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