Paper and Cardboard Waste in the United States: Geographic, Market, and Energy Assessment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reliable data on U.S. paper and cardboard waste by location and type are critical for developing waste-reduction solutions, but detailed geographic analysis is lacking in the literature. In this study, we employ statistical and geospatial methods to assess paper and cardboard waste in the United States by type at the national, state, county, and local levels. Of the estimated 110 million tons of paper and cardboard waste managed domestically in 2019, approximately 56% was landfilled, 6% was combusted, and 38% was recycled. The estimated market value of paper and cardboard lost to landfilling in 2019 was $4 billion, and the estimated losses of embodied energy and combustion energy were equivalent to 9% and 4% of U.S. primary industrial energy consumption, respectively. Associated landfilling fees amounted to almost $4 billion. This study aims to inform efforts to implement beneficial waste-management strategies by policy makers, researchers, businesses, and communities across the United States and to provide a model for similar studies in other parts of the world.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
JournalWaste Management Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-84206


  • cardboard waste
  • landfilled waste
  • MSW
  • municipal solid waste
  • paper waste
  • United States
  • waste value


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