What we recycle.
And What We Don’t.

Can I recycle this? What about this?

If your household is anything like most in North America, these are questions that are pondered aloud almost daily. While recycling in the U.S. can trace its roots back to the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1960s that curbside recycling got wheels under it.

That means for five generations – or more than 60 years – we have been asking ourselves the same question on what we can and cannot recycle. It is frustrating on so many levels.

Recycling in the U.S. is a patchwork system, but paper is a recycling success story.

Even more frustrating than having to ask the question if something is recyclable, is the answer, “It depends.” Unfortunately, in the U.S., recycling differs in every state, city, county, and town. It exists as a patchwork of requirements and regulations that often leads people to scratch their heads on how something is recyclable in New York but not Atlanta, or vice-versa.

Paper packaging, however, is a common denominator in recycling programs nationwide.

According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), 68% of all paper is recycled, and the volume of recycled cardboard is more than 90% of total cardboard produced in the US.

Furthermore, according to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), 94% of Americans can access community paper recycling programs. And 79% have access to residential-curbside recycling programs – an increase of about 14 million people since 2014.

So, rest assured that as you struggle with what to recycle, you can have confidence that paper materials will be recycled into new products.

Recycling At Greif

At Greif, we operate 18 recycling facilities located across the U.S., where we provide industrial and commercial collection and recycling services, primarily focused on paper – or fiber-recovery.

Each facility is critical to our operations as we rely on the material recovered at these facilities to make 100% recycled packaging and paperboard products. 

Greif also operates recycling and reconditioning facilities around the world that provide a “closed loop” for industrial bulk packaging, including intermediate bulk containers (IBC) and steel drums.

Collectively this effort is part of our Lifecycle Services by Greif and is a key part of our sustainability goal to create a global circular economy.

We like to think of it as a win-win-win as it is good for our business, good for other manufacturers, and most importantly – it is good for the environment.

What we recycle

As a commercial and industrial recycling partner, recycling at Greif is different from consumer-facing recycling in that we are more focused on specific substrates – fiber, plastics, metal, etc. than individual products. At Greif, we collect all forms of paper and select plastics in the U.S. Globally, we collect metal and plastics, with a strong emphasis on recycling and reconditioning IBCs and steel drums for reuse.





steel drums


What you can do at home

Just because we don’t do consumer-facing recycling, doesn’t mean we don’t care about it. In fact, our paper mills use almost 2 million tons per year of recovered paper, including materials that come from residential recycling programs. There are incredible resources available that will help you determine what is – and is not – recycled in your location. The AI chatbot from the Recycling Partnership allows you to enter your zip code and see a list of exactly what can and cannot be recycled.

Explore what can be recycled in your area here:

Recycling Partnership | What Can I Recycle?

Here’s how we can help

We understand that recycling is complicated – everywhere. In addition to recycling these materials, we are also proud to offer tools and resources to help you navigate the process. This includes waste audits, collection services, cleaning and rebottling, and sophisticated transportation and shipping networks that connect it all together.

We have helped countless partners reach their recycling and sustainability goals, and we’d love to help you, too! If you have questions about what we recycle, how we can help you recycle or are looking for products that are recyclable or made with recycled content – we have you covered.

Send us a note!

gif showing PPS circularity
Greif Paper Packaging Circularity

“Between these resources and recent data showing 95% of us agree that recycling is the least we can do for the environment, I am hopeful that we can finally answer this question once and for all,” says John Grinnell, Vice President and General Manager of the Greif Recycling Group.

“Happy recycling!”

John Grinnell is the key contributor to this content. He is the Vice President and General Manager of the Greif Recycling Group. John has been with Greif since 2017 and has over twenty-five years of experience in the paper and packaging industry.

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