Recycling Paper

Shred it, pulp it, recycle it!

Can i recycle paper?

Yes! Paper recycling is one of the most common forms of material reclamation. It can be recycled using kerbside collections, paper banks at supermarkets and schools, at your local recycling centre and via a range of community projects and commercial collections. However, paper comes in many forms and the issues are sometimes more complicated than you might have thought.

How is paper recycled?

Ordinary paper is easy to recycle. Paper mills will take waste paper in many forms, pulp it and use it to make new paper products. Paper items that are easy to recycle in this way include newsprint, magazines, office stationery, letters, catalogues, directories and so on. The staples in magazines are normally extracted using a powerful magnet. Another form of waste paper is shredded paper – usually confidential waste. Although it is made of the same material as other letters, it is harder to process because it needs to be fed into the machines differently and because it is much more bulky. The shredding process also makes the paper fibres shorter and therefore less valuable to paper producers. So for all these reasons, some mills will not process shredded waste. There are ways of recycling it, however, one of which is to recycle it with ordinary cardboard, so do check with your local recycling centre about the best way of disposing of it.

Junk mail is another commonly encountered form of paper waste. Generally, the contents are easy to recycle, like any other form of paper, but the envelopes are more difficult because they contain large amounts of glue at the seams and adhesive gum on the flap. See our envelopes page for more information!

Wrapping paper can be difficult to recycle by the normal processes because it can contain additional materials such as glitter, fibres, adhesive tape and plastic decorations. As a result, some paper mills will not accept it with other forms of paper, and some local authorities therefore ask that it be recycled with cardboard rather than with other, more easily recyclable forms of paper. Contact your local council to find out how best to dispose of it – either at the recycling centre or through your usual kerbside collection.

What else can be done?

Although paper recycling is effective, we should all do what we can to minimise the amount of waste we produce. Use both sides of writing paper; set computer printers to print on both sides; use scrap paper to make telephone notepads and, of course, try to buy recycled paper products wherever possible.

Shredded paper waste can easily be blown away if it is left loose in recycling boxes or in paper recycling skips. Some waste collection services and recycling centres will therefore insist that it is packaged in a box or large envelope. Shredded paper can also be added to the compost bin, where it creates air spaces in the mix and helps to prevent it becoming too waterlogged. Junk mail can largely be avoided by contacting the Mailing Preference Service which is a free service enabling you to opt out of receiving unwanted junk mail. See or register by phone on 0845 703 4599 (charged at local rate.)