Myths Vs. Facts – Can Recycled Paper be Used Indefinitely? (4 of 8)

January 31, 2018 Categories: Environment, Industry News, Paper Tags: , , , , ,

Shreds of recycled paper form an image of a tree

How Many Times Can Paper Be Recycled?

People often assume that we can recycle paper over and over indefinitely. The truth is not so simple. Think of it this way, there is a limit to how many times shirts can be laundered. At some point, they lose so much of their fiber that they start to come apart.  Paper is really similar. However, combining recycled paper with new wood fiber creates an ongoing cycle of sustainability.

Myth:  Only recycled paper should be used in making new paper products

Fact:   Recycled fiber and new wood fiber from well-managed forests are both essential to sustain the paper life cycle.

Surprising Facts About Paper Recycling

It's true that collecting used paper and recycling it into new products is good for the environment. However, there are many other factors in the life cycle of paper which influence its environmental footprint. We can recycle paper up to 7 times before the fibers become too short and weak and break down. That’s why we need a continuous supply of fresh wood fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests. In the U.S. and Canada, the majority of this fresh fiber comes from sawmill chips which are a by-product of lumber production. North America also benefits from a good supply of recycled fiber which should be used locally to manufacture paper products.  The re-use of this fiber is a sound environmental solution.

  • Globally, 82% of the paper we recycle, we use in tissue, containerboards, and other packaging or board products. Approximately 6% of the paper we recover we use in printing and writing grade paper.

             – Sappi Fine Paper North America, 2013

  • Without fresh wood, the production of paper will cease within 6 to 18 months depending on the paper grade.

             – Metafore, 2006

  • At least 15% of paper products are permanently removed from the fiber cycle, such as one-time use products (ex: tissues, sanitary products, medical supplies) and books or files that are stored for long periods of time.

- American Forest & Paper Association, 2011

  • "To make the global fiber cycle work, you need a continual input of 35% to 65% of fresh wood fiber. This depends on the grade of the paper you are trying to manufacture."

– Metafore, 2006

What to Expect Next in the Environmental Paper Series (5 of 8)

Are we creating a smaller carbon footprint by replacing print and mail with electronic media? Find out in the next installment of the Environmental Paper Series. Check back to follow this series or explore more blog posts.

You are reading part 4 of 8 of the Myths Vs. Facts About Paper, Printing, and the Environment series. To view the full series, please visit the introductory page of this post.


FSSI is a national, document outsourcing company, that is part of the Women Business Enterprise (WBE). The company was among the first print-mail outsourcing companies to integrate sustainability practices into regular business operations. FSSI has recycled or responsibly disposed of tons of reusable waste. Examples of material we recycle include paper, wooden pallets, electronics such as computers monitors, and other office equipment. For its work in reducing energy consumption, the company earned Trane North America’s “Energy Efficiency Leader Award.” FSSI also participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), keepers of the world’s largest corporate emissions and climate change database, and recognized leader in greenhouse gas reporting. Visit the sustainability practices page on FSSI’s website to learn more about its ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship.


Two Sides U.S., Inc. (2013). Print and Paper Myths and Facts [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from