Most paper recycling is quite simple. In the UK, most local collections take place across and transport paper waste to facilities that turn it into new items. In the U.S, we did recycle a lot of paper. It estimates forhalf of the recyclables collected per year, and our paper recycling rate is about 63 percent. However, paper still makes up about 33 percent of our annual garbage output. How paper is recycled in this process involves mixing it with water and breaking it down to form new sheets of paper. Any type of paper can be used in this process, with a few exceptions:
- Used paper towels
- Paper stained with food, dirt or paint
- Greaseproof or baking paper
- Paper with adhesive on it such as sticky labels
There are various ways of recycling paper but the easiest is to use your local collection. Make sure you check what is, and isn’t accepted as some items, like brown paper, should be recycled alongside cardboard and not with other paper things.
How To Recycle Paper At Home
While you could pop used paper out for your regular recycling collection, there are other, more creative, ways of recycling paper that you may want to try at home.
- Use it as mulch or compost:Waste paper is a vital ingredient of ahealthy compostheap. If you don’t have the space to build one yourself then you can still recycle paper as mulch. You should simply tear it into small strips and place it around your plants. Recycling paper helps to keep the soil in your garden moist.
- Use it as packing material:How to recycle paper packaging and newspapers? Use them to bulk out boxes when packing items to move house, putting items into storage, or sending gifts to your friends. Wrap delicate items in the newspaper and scrunch up other items of used paper or cardboard to fill gaps in the box and protect your valuables.
- Turn it into the fresh paper:This might seem quite labor-intensive, but it’s a big activity for those with crafty fingers or anyone wondering how to recycle paper at home for kids. After all, it is quite educational and messy, with the process you will follow mimicking how paper is recycled at waste sorting plants.
- An old picture frame (with the glass removed)
- A sponge
- Mesh (big enough to cover the picture frame)
- An old towel
- A washing-up bowl (large enough to fit picture)
Follow this process:
- Tape the mesh to your old picture frame to create a screen
- Shred the old paper you want to recycle and blend it with warm water in a bowl
- When you have a smooth pulp, you submerge the picture frame into the mixture
- Pull the frame back out, then you rest it on an old towel. The mesh needs to be full of the paper pulp from your washing-up bowl
- Add any decorations, such as dried flowers, or scraps of colored paper, and cover with a little more pulp from your bowl
- Just press the sponge across the frame to squeeze excess water from the pulp
- Leave the frame to drain for at least a day, then peel off your new sheet of paper
Whether you are putting it outside or putting it to work in your compost heap, there are ways of recycling paper.
With the onslaught of online shopping, we have more cardboard boxes than ever before. These boxes are completely recyclable. You do not have to remove the tape and the labels, but you should classify the boxes down.
Before recycling these boxes you should try to find a local business that will accept used shipping boxes for their own shipping needs.
This way the boxes can be reused. We should try to keep our resources in play for as long as possible before recycling. Remember, recycling is a last resort.
We should first reduce the number of products we are consuming that come in cardboard boxes. We should reuse the cardboard boxes as many times as possible. Only when the cardboard box can no longer be used, should we recycle them.
Brown paper is recyclable, but once again, before recycling see if someone else will take it and should reuse it.
You could save it for placemats, for labeling a cheese board for a party, or even wrapping presents!
Paper that comes out of your printer, bills, notebook paper all of that is recyclable. Something I did find interesting is that crumpled pamper is less likely to be recycled, but have no fear. If the paper is crumpled, torn in half, or folded it is still recyclable!
While the crumpled and slightly altered paper is recyclable, shredded paper is not. The paper fibers have been shortened too much and the small shreds could jam machinery and contaminate bales of other materials.
Shredded paper is great packing material, especially for fragile items. Beyond that, it is remarkable for compost especially worm bins!
Magazines are recyclable! However, a lot of artists use magazines for their art projects. See if you reuse this material before recycling it. If you have newer magazines donate them to libraries, waiting rooms, family shelters, nursing homes.
Any paper that is stained with food or cooking oils is not recyclable so parchment paper is out. However, you could reuse parchment paper several times and then ultimately compost it!
Receipts are coated with BPA and are not recyclable or compostable.
Butcher paper or freezer paper is coated with plastic. It’s neither recyclable or compostable.
Wax paper is a mixed bag. It may be coated with vegetable wax or coated with petroleum-based paraffin.
If it is coated with a vegetable wax it is compostable in an industrial setting. While it can breakdown in a backyard compost there may be some difficulties.
The petroleum-based paraffin is neither recyclable or compostable.
Photos are not recyclable.
Coffee cups are lined with plastic! They are not compostable, and they are not recyclable in most locations. To recycle coffee cups, waste management facilities have to have special machinery that separates the plastic lining from the paper cup.
Milk cartons, soy milk cartons are mixed materials. Many have plastic linings like paper cups. Some are tetra paks which has aluminum sandwiched between the paper. Whether or not your waste management plant takes this type of material varies from town to town.
Typically the bottoms of pizza boxes are too greasy to be recycled. So, you will want to separate the lid and bottom of your pizza box. The greasy bottom part of the pizza box could be composted and the top of the pizza box can be recycled!
Paper napkins and towels:
The fibers are too short to be recycled, but they could be composted.
The newsprint is recyclable and compostable!
Pasta, cereal boxes:
These boxes are recyclable to make sure to remove the plastic window if there is one!
If you do have paper envelopes please remove the plastic windows before recycling. While it may not have been that big of a deal before the contamination rules were placed – it is necessary now to keep the paper as clean as possible!
Paper Recycling Tips
- Avoid getting the paper wet, as this significantly reduces the recycling market. If your curbside program allows all materials in the same bin/cart, empty your containers before tossing them in so they don’t drain on the paper. If there is rain in the forecast, wait until the morning of collection to put your bin at the curb.
- Also, if possible, you should use a black marker to remove sensitive information instead of shredding paper. Ink is quickly removed in the recycling process, but shredding paper reduces the fiber lengths, making it more challenging to recycle into new paper.
- Verify what types of paper are taken in your area, as some communities accept certain grades. Check to see if your community takes paper lined with plastic, such as frozen food boxes and cartons.
- In the case of boxes, break them down to save room in your recycling bin.
Let me know if there are any paper products I left off and I can add it to the list! Stay tuned for the next posts in this series about recycling plastic and e-waste.