How to Recycle Office Paper

An Overview on Recycling Office Paper

Paper is part of our everyday lives, and computer or printing paper is perhaps the most readily used paper product, aside from newspapers. The stats bear out this point - in an average year, Australians use 17.5 million trees worth of paper.[i] For Europeans, the per-year consumption of computer and office paper and paperboard is 134 kg, but over 260 kg in North America![ii] It’s no wonder that the largest portion of the solid waste stream is paper and paper products.[iii]

We love our paper! And since we’re likely a long way away from a paperless society, recycling is important if we’re going to protect our planet. As these statistics show, paper recycling benefits are pretty big:

  • Recycling paper can save up to 65% on energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions by 18%.[iv]
  • Making one ton of paper from recycled materials uses 50% less water and saves 17 trees.[v]

Much like newspaper recycling and cardboard recycling, printer and office paper is recycled by mixing the waste paper products with water, adding heat, and then blending the mix to form a slurry that’s then screened to remove debris, ink, and other contaminants. The resulting mixture is then used to make recycled paper products like new paper, tissue products, paper bags, and so on.

How to recycle printer and office paper

As one of the most commonly recycled products in the residential waste stream, paper recycling is pretty easy:

  • Curbside recycling: For the most part, if you have curbside pick-up for recycling, you’ve got a way to recycle your printer paper. If you’re concerned, call up your recycling office to check out any rules they have for preparing paper for recycling. For instance, you may have to sort out paper by color, type, and so on.
  • Recycling drop off: If you don’t have curbside recycling in your area, look into drop-off boxes or stations where you can deliver your recyclables for processing. Our recycling database has several options for finding recyclers in your area. Just set aside a bin or container in your home in which to collect waste computer paper (one by each printer/computer and one where you sort through mail) to make your job easier.

Note about recycling shredded office paper

In many local communities shredded paper is accepted for recycling, but there are some programs that refuse such waste. There are a few reasons for this. First, when you shred your paper, you shorten the fibers so that the resulting material is of lesser quality than regular computer paper. Second, shredded paper can cause maintenance problems and even pose fire concerns for recycling companies.

However, if you are able to recycle your shredded paper, there are a few tips you should follow to ensure yours isn’t turned away.

  • Make sure it’s free of plastic
  • Pack it up in a bag or a box so that it doesn’t blow away

If, however, you discover that you can’t recycle shredded paper, then you can do one or two things to guard against sending it to the landfill:

  • Don’t shred your paper at all if you can avoid it.
  • Use a certified paper shredding/recycling company that will ensure confidentiality. Do a search online for something like “confidential residential shredding” or look in our recycling database for a good list of shredding companies.
  • Compost your shredded paper in your backyard compost pile or worm bin - as long as it was printed using soy- or vegetable-based dyes and not convention dyes that can contain heavy metals.

Reusing printer paper

When recycling isn’t an option, there’s always the possibility to reuse your paper at home. Here are some great ideas to keep your computer paper out of the landfill.

  • Print on both sides of the paper. In other words, if you’ve only used one side, designate one drawer or slot in your printer for recycled paper that you can use to print “internal” documents.
  • Make scratch pads and note books out of recycled office paper
  • Make crafts using the un-printed side of paper designated for recycling.
  • Make packing material by crumpling up old printer paper for protecting fragile items from breaking during an upcoming move.





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References

 Choosing Recycled Paper. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability - Victoria: http://www.ces.vic.gov.au/ces/wcmn301.nsf/LinkView/44D34DF84B661FE9CA2570C7001A6ED134EE51E97AF50DADCA2570C700181129 


2 Magnaghi, G. (n.d.). THE WORLD RECOVERED PAPER MARKET IN 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Bureau of International Recycling: http://former.bir.org/pdf/MagnaghiWorldReport2008.pdf 


3 Municipal Solid Waste in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from US Environmental Protection Agency: http://epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/mswchar05.pdf


Recycled Materials Supply 40% of the Global Raw Material Needs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from Bureau of International Recycling: http://www.bir.org/industry/

Recycling Saves Energy in Production of New Products. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2010, from US Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=environment_recycling-basics

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