Monday Morning Minute: Jan. 31, 2022

Union Work

From the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA)

A New Report Indicates that a Vast Majority of Americans have Access to Community Paper and Paperboard Recycling Programs

The paper industry is one that is strongly connected to recycling systems and contributes to the overall circular economy. Every year since 2009, the recycling rate for paper has met or exceeded 63 percent. In 2020 alone, a period defined by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost two-thirds of paper was recycled and transformed into new sustainable paper products.

At paper mills, recycled paper fibers are used to make essential and sustainable products. Those recycled paper fibers can also be reused 5 to 7 times to make new paper and cardboard products. According to the AF&PA’s 2021 Access to Recycling Study – a comprehensive national report that tracks and measures the growth of consumer access to community paper and paperboard recycling in the U.S. – 79% of Americans have access to residential-curbside programs, making it easier to recycle at home. Items such as corrugated cardboard, mail, newspapers, office paper, magazines, paperboard boxes with and without poly coatings, paper bags, liquid packaging cartons and pizza boxes have a consumer access rate of 60 percent or more.

In 2021, the U.S. paper industry reached a record level for containerboard production and saw a 6.8 percent increase, compared to 2020, in the consumption of old-corrugated containers (OCC) at mills to make new products. The industry has also announced investments by 2023 aimed at increasing the consumption of recovered paper by U.S. paper and paperboard mills by 25% compared to 2020. By increasing the percentage of paper products that are recyclable, it strengthens the industry’s role in the circular economy and makes our products more valuable.

2022 USW National Rapid Response, Legislative & Policy Virtual Conference

The USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Policy Conference has moved to a virtual format and will be held Tuesday, February 22 and Wednesday, February 23. The conference will begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time both days with general sessions, district breakouts and workshops, and will conclude at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time both days. On Thursday, February 24, lobby day meetings will be held both virtually and in-state with legislators throughout the day.

To register for the conference, click the following link: 2022 Rapid Response, Legislative, and Policy Conference (


Save the Date for the USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference

The USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference will take place in-person April 16-21, 2023 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and Westin Hotel. A “Save the Date” notice will be shared via regular USW communications.

OSHA Winter Weather Guide

Winter weather-related hazards exist across industries, including the paper sector where many processes take place outside. In addition to cold stress, there are other winter weather-related hazards that workers may be exposed to when performing tasks such as driving in the snow, removing snow from rooftops, and working near downed or damaged power lines.

Although employers cannot control roadway conditions, they can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers recognize the hazards of winter weather driving—for example, driving on snow/ice covered roads--are properly trained for driving in winter weather conditions, and are licensed (as applicable) for the vehicles they operate. Employers should set and enforce driver safety policies, and also implement an effective maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. 

To prevent slips, trips and falls, employers should clear walking surfaces of snow and ice, and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a winter storm. Precautions, like wearing proper footwear when walking on snow and ice is unavoidable, will help reduce the likelihood of injuries. A pair of insulated and water-resistant boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm. Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads, which fit over your street shoes, is a good idea during the winter months, and taking short steps and walking at a slower pace when walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway is also recommended.

For more information on winter-weather hazards and resources for preventing related injuries, click the following link: Winter Weather - Hazards/Precautions | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (

Industry Update

2021 and December Printing and Writing Papers Statistics

2021 and December statistics for printing and writing grades, which include both coated and uncoated freesheet and mechanical paper, were recently released by the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA). A wide range of products fall into this category, including books, magazines, catalogs, promotional and periodical products, copy paper, envelopes, etc. The USW-represented companies that are major producers of these grades include Domtar, Sylvamo (IP spin-off), PCA, Pixelle, Sappi, and Verso.

In 2021, U.S. mills shipped 5.04 million tons of uncoated freesheet (UFS) paper, which was 0.7% lower than the 5.07 million tons shipped in 2020 and 20% lower than the pre-pandemic level in 2019. Coated freesheet (CFS) shipments in 2021 declined 12.2% to 2.09 million tons compared with 2020 shipments and were also 27% lower than in 2019. And, coated mechanical (CM) paper shipments fell 20% to 742,100 tons in 2021 vs. 2020 and were 43.3% lower than in 2019.

UFS operating rates declined 0.3 percentage points from the 3rd quarter to 4th quarter last year, while CFS operating rates declined 7.3 percentage points over the same time period. Price increases for UFS have been announced in recent weeks beginning in February by the top 3 producers – # 1 Domtar, #2 Sylvamo and #3 Pixelle.

Ikea’s Aim to be Plastic-Free by 2028 Includes Use of More Renewal Materials Like Paper

Ikea has pledged to eliminate all plastic packaging for its products by 2028, phasing out the remaining 10% of its packaging that still uses plastic and replacing it with more sustainable materials such as paper and cardboard. The company will start with phasing out plastic packaging with all new ranges by 2025, and its running ranges by 2028.

In a press release, Erik Olsen, IKEA’s packaging and identification manager, said: “The shift will happen progressively over the coming years, and mainly be focusing on paper as it is recyclable, renewable, and widely recycled across the world.”

With this phase-out, Ikea aims to drive the industry agenda to develop packaging solutions centered around renewable and recycled materials.

Tell Us Your Stories!

Has your local done something amazing? Have you had a great solidarity action? Done something huge to help your community? Made significant connections with other labor groups? Is your Women of Steel or Next Gen committee making waves? Have you had success in bargaining, major accomplishments? We all stay so busy working to improve our workplaces and communities that we often do not take 5 minutes to reflect, share and celebrate our accomplishments.

Tell us your story so we can all be part of it! Contact Laura Donovan at, or at 412-562-2504.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222