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Choosing paper and paper-based packaging helps us plant more trees, protect wildlife habitats and reduce waste through product innovation and widespread recycling.

How? Scroll down to find out.


From how we source raw materials, to the ways we recycle and rely on recycling, to designing packaging with the future of the planet in mind, the U.S. paper industry is working hard to make and deliver products more sustainably.

Sustainable forestry is the backbone of our efforts, supported by communities with long histories—sometimes a century or more—of growing and caring for forests. We refer to regions with many productive communities as “wood baskets.”

Paper is made from tree fiber, a resource that is renewable because trees can be replanted. Over the decades, sustainable forestry has evolved to encompass all the ways we ensure that forests stay vital and productive.

Family and private forest owners play a critical role in helping us create the products you count on every day. More than 90% of U.S. forest products come from privately owned land, much of which has been in the same family for generations.

To meet some of these families, see our “Faces of the Forest” series at the end of this page.


Paper may have been around for thousands of years, but the technology that helps us plant trees, manage land and protect forests is cutting-edge. More than 1 billion trees are planted in the U.S. each year. In the past 30 years, U.S. forestland has grown by nearly 33 million acres. That’s like 2,275 football fields of forest growth every day.

So how many trees are there?

A recent study using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery estimates there are 7.5 times more trees on Earth than previously believed—over 3 trillion total, with more than 228 billion of them here in the U.S.

Technology helps us do our work in a more sustainable way. It can show us in real time where trees should be planted, or where pests may be lurking or disease spreading so we can remove sick trees to help keep forests healthy.

Click the buttons below for more details about each technology

Revolutionizing mapping and planting

Drones are critical for modern forestry. They can go where we sometimes can’t, helping us create more accurate maps of forestland.

Drones help save our forests by allowing people to collect vital information on the health of forests and the creatures that live there.

More importantly, these forest drones enable us to drop pre-germinated seeds precisely where we need to plant more trees. These seeds can carry a nutritious hydrogel that provides moisture and vital minerals, leading to more successful sprouting and growth.

Learn more about how technology helps keep forests healthy in the article at the end of this page.


Forests of every age provide critical habitats for wildlife, but younger forests are particularly important for biodiversity. That’s why it is crucial for forests to have plenty of trees at every stage of development.

Young trees and the surrounding brushy grasses make an exceptional habitat for smaller animals. When properly tended, mature forests provide homes for bigger animals, such as bears and deer.

About 85% of the fiber trees used to make packaging paper and paperboard products in the southeast comes from softwood conifers like loblolly pine, which have a rotation cycle of about 20 to 25 years.

Click the buttons below to learn more about the wildlife found in each stage of pine forest growth


The first 12 years of a newly planted forest are an exciting time

Young, healthy and vibrant trees are home to an abundance of all kinds of songbirds, from warblers to sparrows. These young forests, also known as early successional habitats, are also where small game birds like the bobwhite quail thrive.

After about 12 years, thinning out some of the trees helps open the forest for exposure to sunlight and room for growth—for both the trees and the animals that live among them.


As more consumer brands increase their commitment to paper and paper packaging, we all benefit from a greater variety of choices—those that come from sustainable sources and can be recycled multiple times for additional use.

From cardboard coolers and temperature-controlled boxes to all-paper blister packs and paper beverage rings, the designs that make life more convenient are also good for the planet.

“When you tell your kids about what you do, they’re actually proud of you. It’s an exciting field, and I think that there’s so much left to do in recycling.”
—Christer Henriksson, President, Juno®

Sustainable practices and the innovative use of resources don’t happen by accident. They’re the result of years of hard work from dedicated scientists, engineers, forest owners and environmentalists.

Shelf-Stable Cartons

This innovation can help extend the shelf life of food products, reducing waste. Their size and shape mean they also require less fuel to ship and store.

Extreme-Cold Storage

Coolers made of paper are nothing new. But reusable ones that can keep lifesaving medical supplies at subzero temperatures and then be recycled? Game changing.

E-Commerce Upgrades

Lightweight, durable and stackable, advancements in cardboard help us ship things like detergent right in the container they come in – and using fewer trips, thanks to rightsizing.

Discover advancements in paper that improve and sometimes even save lives

Security and Convenience

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology can now be seamlessly integrated into paper on luggage tags, saving countless hours sorting and searching for bags. Scientists have also figured out how to make wallpaper block Wi-Fi signals, helping protect your data from hackers.

Lifesaving leaps forward

Bacteria-resistant paper that mimics the surface of a shark’s skin can be used in medical settings such as hospitals and ambulances to help reduce infections.

Advancements in paper coatings have helped doctors detect cancer faster and helped slow the spread of dangerous diseases and viruses such as Zika.

Paper has also been made into a drinkable book that removes 99.9% of harmful bacteria from water, potentially preventing billions of deaths in developing countries.


Thanks to people like you, paper and paper-based packaging are the most recycled materials in the United States.

On average, 92.4% of corrugated cardboard packaging gets recycled every year.

In 2020, the overall recycling rate for paper was 65.7%.

As we increasingly rely on online shopping and e-commerce deliveries, improving residential recycling has become more important than ever. It’s critical for businesses and consumers alike to continue playing their roles, which is why we’re always working on products and processes to make it even easier for everyone to recycle.

The natural cellulose fibers that make paper products can generally be used to make new products up to seven times (especially when combined with some fresh fiber). The fibers can also be made into a transparent film similar in appearance to plastics derived from fossil fuels, a development that could have a big impact on the recyclability of packaging in the future.

To continue to help everyone make the best use of recycled fiber in our products, our industry has planned $5 billion in manufacturing infrastructure investments by 2023. Those investments will help use 7.8 million tons of recycled fiber—enough to fill New York’s Grand Central Terminal 124 times.

See how recycling plays into our circle of caring for nature


While recyclable packaging and recycling processes get more attention, the paper industry’s journey to zero waste starts with sustainable innovations at our mills.

Juno®, a new waste recycling technology from Georgia-Pacific, can turn up to 90% of waste that would otherwise go to landfills and incinerators back into recyclable materials.

Pratt Industries takes pride in the fact that all five mills it operates in the U.S. use only 100% recycled paper as input.

Advancements in papermaking techniques and fiber recycling technology help mills like the ones owned by Green Bay Packaging and Graphic Packaging operate using less energy and reduce raw material waste.

Water is a precious resource, which is why Sappi mills return 95% of the water they use back to the source—sometimes even cleaner than it started off.

Find an in-depth look at how innovations make paper mills more sustainable at the end of this page.


The makers of paper and paper packaging are continually working on ways to make recycling easier, on designs and processes that create less waste, and on renewing our forests to ensure an abundance of trees for generations to come. With limited resources, we must be mindful of the products we produce and the way we produce them.

Some call this “the circular economy,” and it is quickly becoming the focal point of sustainability. We like to think of it as a circle of caring. And every time you choose paper-based products, you play a part in helping us continue that full cradle-to-grave cycle.

We will continue to work with family and private forest owners, those who responsibly manage their land to keep it thriving and producing paper products now and for future generations.

We will continue to innovate ways to create less waste, from our mills to our processes for producing and recycling paper products.

We will continue to invest in our recycling infrastructure, with the equivalent of $2.5 million being spent every day on manufacturing upgrades.

We will continue to strive for innovations in our design labs, where engineers create products that make the most of all the materials and use less when possible.

We will continue to make paper and paper products in more sustainable ways, so they can be enjoyed today and in the future.

Learn more about our circle of caring, from forestry to recycling to innovating out waste, in the articles at the end of this experience.


As an industry, sustainability is what drives us. It’s an ongoing process—one that we continually work to refine and perfect.

Because we know you have a choice.

Every day, we all make thousands of decisions. But it’s not just the big ones that have the ability to make an impact. The choices you only thought were little are the ones that can often change the world— a world that needs you to act, and to act fast.

When you choose paper packaging, you choose not just to protect what’s inside but to support the industry that has been a leader in sustainability since before sustainability was a buzzword.

Your choices plant trees.
Your choices replenish habitats.
Your choices can make you an agent of change.


Just like your choices have the power to make change, so do ours. Click the articles below to learn more about how the sustainable nature of the paper and packaging industry contributes to a healthier planet, and how your choices can help.

More About Forestry

Meet the Faces of the Forest

How much do you know about the people who bring you the paper products you use every day? Learn about the families who watch over our forests, growing, planting and protecting wildlife and their habitats.

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Keeping Forests Healthy Using Technology

Satellites, AI and drones all play vital roles in helping modern-day papermakers protect and nurture forests. See how these technologies are revolutionizing sustainable forestry.

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How Healthy Forests Help Wildlife and Habitats

Sustainable forestry means more than caring for trees. It also takes into consideration how animals benefit from forests of different ages. See how we work to nurture wildlife and protect their habitats.

Learn more

More About Recycling

Recycling Innovations Start at Our Mills

Learn about technologies that allow us to recover 90% of material that would have gone to a landfill, and how we’re able to return water cleaner than it started.

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Playing a Part in Our Circle of Caring

Some call this “the circular economy.” See how we’re continually working to make recycling easier, to create less waste and to ensure an abundance of natural resources.

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Designed to Be Recycled and Sustainable

See how innovations and advancements are making recycled paper stronger than ever, opening the door for new package designs and new applications.

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More About Innovation

Premium Brands Demand Premium Packaging

Paper is renewable and sustainably sourced, but it also feels more premium. See why Handsome Brook Farms uses a hybrid carton to protect its eggs and help protect the planet.

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Unwrap Your Favorite Summer Snacks in Paper

The season of picnics and social outings is also the perfect time to discover some of the advances in paper and cardboard that help you make more conscious choices.

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Sustainable Packaging Around the World

As more companies increase their commitment to paper packaging, some are pushing the boundaries of what paper and cardboard can do. See the latest designs.

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