How to Recycle Office Paper

The global population consumes a lot of paper. Luckily, the recycling rates of paper products are also very high.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

How to Recycle Office Paper
Recycling Office Paper / Ecolife / Sander Tamm

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. Here are some alarming stats to show just how much paper we consume:

We’re likely a long way going completely paperless. As such, recycling is important if we’re going to protect our planet. As the following statistics show, paper recycling benefits are big:

  • A purchase of every 1 ton of recycled paper saves 3779 kWh electricity when compared to paper made from virgin materials.
  • Paper can go through several recycling cycles – it can be recycled from 3 to 8 times.

How to recycle printer and office paper

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

  • 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 still concerned, you can always call up your recycling service provider to see if they have any specific rules for preparing paper for recycling.
  • 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.

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 some 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 separately in a bag or a box.

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 simple 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.