From reject to resource
Karen Youso, Star Tribune
Newspapers, Pampers boxes, junk mail, even tossed-away report cards -- all are recyclable. Called "fiber" in the industry, scrap is used to make a host of paper items. The paperboard made at Rock-Tenn Co. in St. Paul, for example, is used to box cereal, facial tissues, crackers and more. And paperboard is often 100 percent recycled paper.
In 2003, half of all paper used nationwide was recovered for recycling. That's an average of 339 pounds for each person in the United States, up significantly from 233 pounds per person in 1990.
In 1908, Michael Waldorf decided to build a paper mill. Midway between the growing cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and with no forest in sight, he found what he believed was the perfect place. He would compete with mills near forests by using wastepaper instead. Where there were people, Waldorf believed, there was wastepaper.
Waldorf was right. The site, now Rock-Tenn Co., has gone through many name changes, but it's still recycling scrap paper around the clock, seven days a week.
Near the tiny town of Becker, Minn. -- another place with no forest in sight, but on a rail line near the still-expanding Twin Cities -- a paper mill was built in 1995. Liberty Paper thrives by producing rolls of paper for cardboard boxes.
These two success stories came 90 years apart, but share the same secret to success: They're recycling paper.
SOURCES Tour: Rock-Tenn Co., St. Paul • Materials Recovery Facility (recycling sorting centers) tours: BFI Recyclery, Eureka Recycling and Waste Management's Recycle America Alliance, all in Minneapolis • Treecycle Recycle Paper in Montana • Recycling Association of Minnesota (www.recycleminnesota.org) • Star Tribune Newspaper, Minneapolis and St. Paul; Pioneer Press, St. Paul • "Waste and Want," by Susan Strasser (Henry Holt & Co., 1999) • www.cityofseattle.net
Karen Youso is at email@example.com="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com.