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Commercial Paper Recycling Background

Research conducted by NEWMOA, its member-states, and others indicates that increasing paper recycling could significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Paper is an organic material that breaks down and releases GHGs when it is burned or buried, and fewer GHGs are emitted from manufacturing paper from recovered paper than from trees. Recycling greater quantities of this material within the Northeast could also help avoid the GHGs associated with shipping recovered paper out of the region (and often off-shore) for re-manufacturing.

In the Northeast, there are significant untapped opportunities to divert commercially-generated waste paper from disposal. NEWMOA’s members have determined that recovering waste paper from commercial enterprises should be a target as one of the first efforts toward implementation of its NEWMOA Climate-Waste Action Plan [PDF].

To access new paper supplies, NEWMOA has identified the following business sectors that are not yet recycling paper to their fullest potential:

  • Shopping centers and malls
  • Multi-tenant commercial buildings
  • Small businesses

In the Northeast, businesses that operate in strip malls and multi-tenant commercial buildings frequently do not have the needed infrastructure to properly collect and manage recyclables. They lack space and may have zoning restrictions that impede such activities. Smaller businesses may not have access to affordable recycling services, or they face economic disincentives that keep them from using recycling services that are available. In addition, haulers, waste brokers, and landlords that might otherwise want to offer paper recycling, face economic circumstances that favor disposal over recycling.

While several northeast states have laws requiring that businesses recycle waste paper, enforcement has been problematic. State and municipal governments do not have adequate resources for enforcement, and penalties, where they exist, can be insignificant.

Together, all of these factors result in continued landfilling or incineration of an estimated six million tons of recyclable paper each year in the Northeast, presenting a significant opportunity for improved recycling and reduced GHGs. To address this opportunity, NEWMOA initiated a Regional Commercial Paper Recycling Project in 2010.

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