June 4, 2011

Curbside: Paper

“Trashmaster”, you say, “I read your post about where my curbside recycling goes. I even read about putting my glass out on the curb.”
Awesome! I say. Thanks for reading!
“Trashmaster,” you say, “I’m ready for something more.”

Today’s feature: Paper

Paper is crazy-easy to recycle. You can use your junk mail, some water, some old screen door mesh and a blender to make new paper right now. Try this site or this one.

Using recycled paper to make new paper products uses only about 60% of the energy it takes using virgin materials. That means less air pollution, less water pollution, less energy used, and fewer trees cut down.

Right. First things first. What does your hauler say about recycling paper? Not your neighbor, not your co-worker, not your brother’s wife’s weird cousin Larry, but your hauler. (Don’t know who that is? Type “recycling in [your city]” into a search engine. Go ahead. It’s okay - I’ll wait.) Find out if your hauler requires you to separate types of paper products or accepts “mixed paper”. This is important.

Got your local recycling info? Fantastic! If your local hauler requires you to separate your paper products, PLEASE DO THAT. It makes life simpler for the hauler, it makes life simpler for the paper mill, and it means more of your waste products will get recycled.

Here’s what you need to know about recycling “mixed paper”:

-any color of paper can go in. Seriously. For reals. I know, there used to be restrictions like “no goldenrod”. Not anymore.

-you don’t need to remove labels or staples or the spirals from notebooks or paper clips (though paper clips are easy to remove – and reuse)

-you don’t need to remove the ‘windows’ from envelopes

YES: paper bags (no food stains!), cereal and cracker boxes, junk mail (remove free samples and sample credit cards first), cardboard, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, telephone books, catalogs, magazines, newspapers and their inserts, copier paper, greeting cards, wrapping paper (as long as it doesn’t have foil!), milk and juice cartons (even if they feel waxy - they're a weird exception).

CHECK FIRST: corrugated cardboard. Some haulers are fine with mixing it, others want it separate. Also, if you have a lot of shredded paper (like, from a home or small business) – check with your hauler about the size of the shreds and how much the hauler will accept curbside.

NO: Do not put these in your recycling cart. These materials often have chemicals in the paperboard, food residue or other icky chemicals that get in the way of making new paper products.
-paper plates & cups (food residue, and they are often waxed), wrapping paper with foil, carbon paper, tissues, takeout food containers, hardback books (adhesives in the covers and spine), pizza boxes (these usually have food residue)

Freezer food boxes – if the box is at all waxy, DO NOT PLACE IT IN THE RECYCLING BIN. Even if it says “recycle me” on it, just throw it out. There’s a very good chance it has chemicals in it to protect the food inside, and those chemicals are NO GOOD for the paper recycling process. Hopefully this will change soon.

Don’t shred all your paper! Some folks worry about sensitive documents being harvested by icky people. Fair enough. But just shred the stuff with actual personal information. You don’t need to shred the entire contents of the envelope to keep someone from gathering your account number.

The problem with shredding is that it cuts the reusable life of the paper down. Paper can be recycled 4-7 times before the fibers are too short to bind together and form new sheets. Shredding paper means the fibers are cut shorter that much sooner, making for more waste sloughed off in the paper-making process.

More fun facts about paper recycling:

About 1/3 of all papermaking materials in the US comes from recycled paper products.

Recycled paper fibers get made into new products such as new office and notebook paper, egg cartons, corrugated cardboard, paper money, coffee filters, fiber pots for seedlings, bandages, insulation, and much more.

According to the Paper Industry Association Council, “every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space”. That’s a lot! Want more paper recycling statistics? (and really, who doesn’t?) Read this.

*Consider reading:
Promoting office recycling
Materials for elementary school teachers (or parents)
Paper (and other) recycling facts
Lots of paper recycling info from the EPA

Consider reading the rest of the "curbside" series. Just click on the “curbside” tag just underneath this post

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I didn't know that shredding the paper shortened its reusable life.