Paper is one of the most commonly used items in our lives. In fact, we use so much paper that it constitutes a full third of the municipal waste stream in the U.S. It’s also one of the most recycled items.
Newly manufactured paper products in this country utilize 37% recycled fiber. Paper can also be recycled multiple times before it reaches the end of its useful life. You can feel good about your impact on the environment when you recycle your paper. Recycling one ton of paper saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
Paper can be broken down into several grades. The grades vary in quality, and hence in what uses they have as a recycled material. Generally paper can be classified as cardboard, newsprint, mixed (glossy colored paper used in magazines and fliers), and office paper. Most recycling programs accept office paper and newsprint. Corrugated cardboard is also commonly accepted. Other types of paper may be more difficult to recycle in your area.
Boxboard and Cardboard
Boxboard is the paper that makes up our ceral boxes and other consumable containers. Most other cardboard is classified as corrugated. Both are recyclable, but boxboard is not as commonly accepted as corrugated due to the lower market value of the material. Neither material is accepted when saturated with food or oil. This is why pizza boxes are rarely accepted by recycling programs.
There is a commonly held myth that phonebooks are not recyclable. This is not true, but it does tend to be harder to find programs that accept them than for other types of paper. The portion of the phone book that may not be recyclable is the spine. This is because the spines often contain metals. If your local provider does not accept phone books, you can still recycle them by ripping out the individual pages to be placed in your regular paper recycling and just discard the spine.
Junk Mail and Magazines
This paper, which is typically glossy and colorful, is often accepted for recycling, although it may need to be separated from your office paper and newsprint. Window envelopes can be recycled too, despite the clear plastic window.
The beauty of paper bag recycling is that it is often the container of choice for your hauler when recycling other papers. Paper bags can be filled with newspaper, office paper or mixed paper and set out at the curb. They will be recycled right along with their contents.
Food and Beverage Cartons
Of all the paper products, this one is the most difficult to recycle. The problem is that these products are lined with plastic or aluminum in order to preserve the food they contain. In recent years, however, there has been a growing movement to recycle more cartons, and more and more programs are accepting them every year.
Paper in all its forms is a recyclable commodity. Remember to check with your local provider to see which papers you can recycle as part of your program. For more information, visit www.paperrecycles.org.