Not all paper is recyclable, so it’s important to learn which products you shouldn’t dispose of in paper trash. Create a green routine using the following tips.
According to the EPA, paper is the largest category of waste produced in the USA, making recycling essential. Recycling paper reduces the need for logging, requires less water than paper production, and also prevents the paper from degrading in landfills to produce methane. Despite this, not all paper products can be recycled due to chemical treatments, plastic coatings, or potential contaminants. Knowing the difference can save entire loads of recycled paper from being discarded due to a single contaminated piece. Read below to find which common paper products you shouldn’t’ dispose of in the paper trash and why.
1. Pizza Boxes with Leftovers
Being made of carboard, pizza boxes are usually recyclable as any other paper product. The problem comes with leftovers, which can contaminate the recycling process. Pizza boxes with excess cheese, tomato sauce, or grease shouldn’t be disposed of in paper trash for this reason. Fortunately, according to the EPA, scraping pizza boxes so that only a small amount of grease remains is usually all it takes to make a pizza box suitable for paper recycling. When in doubt, cut the food-stained portions of the box out and recycle or compost the rest.
Receipts may be among the most common types of paper waste we produce, but unfortunately they can be neither recycled nor composted. Unlike other types of printed paper, receipts are thermal paper, meaning they are printed in a heat process with ink that contains BPA, a chemical known to disrupt hormones. While handling receipts is accepted as safe, they definitely shouldn’t be recycled or composted due to the risk of transferring the chemical to either food or recycled products that we may eat from (plates or napkins). Instead, reduce the amount of receipts produced by option for paperless transactions whenever possible.
3. Used Tissues
Like receipts, even pristine tissues cannot be recycled due to their production process. This is because the paper fibers in tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels are chemically treated with softeners and are too weak to be recycled again. Used tissues are even worse because they are contaminated with food, makeup, bodily fluids, or pathogens.
While clean tissues are compostable, different municipalities disagree on whether used tissues should be composted or tossed. Tissues with makeup, blood, or potential pathogens should never be composted, but those with saliva or mucus might be exceptions. Paper towels can be neither recycled nor composted due to their chemical treatment, so opt for some more sustainable paper towel alternatives.
4. Baking Paper
Regardless of whether baking paper (parchment paper or wax paper) has food residue, it shouldn’t be disposed of in paper trash. This is because baking paper is coated with a non-stick substance, usually wax or silicone, which is impossible to separate from the paper fibers during the recycling process. This also applies to other paper food packaging with coatings, which unfortunately must be tossed in the trash. For more sustainable baking, use substitutes for parchment paper.
5. Wrapping Paper
Like baking paper, wrapping paper is usually coated or laminated with a plastic that makes it impossible to separate from paper and recycle. Any gift wrap that is shiny, glossy, or glittery unfortunately must go into the trash. As an alternative, try using a non-glossy wrapping paper, reusing gift wrap, furoshiki, or even using newspaper. Check out these sustainable gift wrapping ideas to waste less paper.
- Is Paper Biodegradable? It Depends
- Are Paper Plates Recyclable? Composting and Other Options
- How to Recycle Shredded Paper – and How to Avoid Shredding it
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