Smithsonian Enterprises

ABOUT

Overview Environmental Sustainability The Recycling Partnership Contacts & Additional Resources

ENVIROMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY:

Sustainability means working to protect our natural resources for future generations.

We understand that recycling is inherently good and is fundamental to a healthy environment and society.  But it is important to separate the issue of improving collection rates from how that recycled material is then used. Simply dictating that recycled fiber should go into magazine paper overlooks the fact that it could be put to far more efficient and sustainable use in other products.

In the past decade, the production of printing and writing papers in North American has dropped by nearly 50% at the same time that exports of recycled paper to China have increased significantly. As a result, despite overall increases in paper recovery rates in the United States, the availability of recycled fiber suitable for use in magazine grades has actually decreased.  Given this growing shortage of suitable recycled fiber, it is important to insure that the recycled fiber that is available is put to the best use. It’s not always the right choice to say it should be used in every instance. For example, when recycled fiber is used in certain packaging materials (like recycled paperboard) nearly 100% of the recycled material can be used; however, when recycled fiber is used for magazine paper typically only 70% of the recycled material is usable. That 30% level of waste is substantially less efficient than our paper supplier’s sustainably managed fresh fiber process.

That’s why we actively promote the improvement of collection rates through our participation in the Recycling Partnership, an organization that works with communities to improve recycling at the local level.  The national track record for recovering paper is good -- about 65% of all the paper we use in this country is recovered each year for re-use. But it can get better, and we share that goal – to make recycling more accessible and more efficient -- with the Recycling Partnership.

When purchasing our paper, we rely on the use of chain-of-custody certified fiber as the primary means of demonstrating that the paper sourced through our purchasing agreements comes from sustainably managed forests.  Together with our focus on improving collection rates, we believe our practices yield the most sustainable outcomes.