Junk mail and discarded delivery boxes have turned into a hot commodity as the paper industry uses them as a substitute for recycled office paper, whi
Junk mail and discarded delivery boxes have turned into a hot commodity as the paper industry uses them as a substitute for recycled office paper, which became scarce as people work from home.
That is a sharp turnaround from two years ago, when the market for recycled catalogs, boxes and newspapers collapsed after China toughened its standards for waste paper imports.
Now, U.S. paper and cardboard mills are figuring out how to turn that trash into new toilet paper, coffee cups, paper towels and cardboard boxes. And they have more material to work with as people order more food and packages to their homes during the coronavirus.
“Those who are recycling are recycling more,” said Kevin Hudson, vice president of forestry and recycled fiber for paper company WestRock Co. “You’re definitely seeing more old corrugated cardboard from residential programs since Covid.”
Many U.S. mills long avoided paper from curbside recycling programs. The low quality of paper mixed with glass, cans and household trash made it difficult to turn into new paper and cardboard. Before China tightened its standards, it had been buying two-thirds of such mixed paper collected in the U.S. The export demand kept prices high, discouraging U.S. paper mills from investing in ways to use more of it.