How to Recycle or Reuse Newspaper

Newspapers, along with other types of paper, make up a significant portion of our waste stream throughout the developed world.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Key takeaways
  • Newspaper consumption in developed countries such as the United Kingdom has halved in the last decade.
  • Newspapers have a high recycling rate and are easily recyclable, but prioritize reducing and reusing.
  • You can recycle newspaper curbside, in drop-off recycling points, or a compost pile.
Recycling Newspaper
Recycling or Reusing Newspapers / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Many of us still love the feeling of leafing through a broadleaf newspaper in the morning as we sip coffee and prepare for the daily commute. But newspapers, along with other types of paper, make up a big portion of our waste stream throughout the developed world. 25% in Australia and 23.1% in the US, to name just a few stats.

Thankfully, a good portion of it is being recycled these days, and in 2018, the recovery rate for newspapers in the US was 64.8%.

Recycling newspaper has many social and environmental benefits:

  • When you recycle 54 kg of newspaper, you save one tree.
  • Making newspapers from recycled materials, like old newspapers, requires fewer raw materials.
  • Recycling newsprint reduces sulfur dioxide and methane emissions which are hazardous to the environment.
  • Because resources like timber have been the focus of many brutal wars, recycling helps to alleviate the source of such conflicts.

How newspaper recycling works

Newspaper recycling works by collecting newspapers and other recycled paper materials, sending them to paper processing mills where they become part of the feedstock used to make new paper products. The collected materials are combined with water in a pulper which blends it all up until it forms a slurry. The slurry is then screened to remove clay, dirt, ink, metal, and plastic. Repeated screening and drying produces a solid mixture that is flattened into sheets of paper.

Unfortunately, because newspaper is made from short cellulose fibers which are of poorer quality than long cellulose fibers, it does not fetch as high a price as recycled office paper. However, the resulting fibers can be used to make things like more newspapers, egg cartons, grocery bags, tissue products, pencil barrels, and other materials that require short fiber strands.

How to reduce your newspaper consumption

Though newspaper is highly recyclable, it may be better to un-waste newsprint by finding other ways to get your daily news. For instance:

  • Subscribe to online versions of your favorite newspapers. Big-name newspapers all offer such options nowadays, and no trees have to be cut down to get you access to the content.
  • Watch your news on TV or online for a more interactive and paper-free experience.
  • Cancel your newspaper subscription if you know you’ll be out of town for a few days or weeks.
  • Share your newspaper subscription with a neighbor or co-worker so that only one is printed between the group.

Where to recycle newspapers

When recycling your old newspapers, ensure they are clean (not stained with paint or oil) and dry (not moldy). Then look for solutions for turning your old newsprint into new newspapers, such as:

  • Curbside recycling: Most curbside recycling programs now accept things like newspapers. Just be sure to give your program coordinator to ensure that you can recycle this material with your other waste.
  • Drop-off recycling: When curbside recycling isn’t available, look for drop-off recycling facilities. To make it easier to transport your newspaper for recycling, bundle it up with twine, in a crate, or in grocery bags to keep it neat and organized.
  • Compost: If you’ve got a backyard compost pile or container, consider shredding your newspaper and adding it to the pile to make up some of the “browns” your system requires. Recycle it in your garden next year! Just be cautious of heavy metals often used in conventional printing dyes. Safe dyes are made with soy or vegetable bases – call your newspaper to find out what kind they use before composting newspapers in a pile to be used on your veggie garden.

How to reuse newspaper

Can’t find recycling for your newspapers in your area?

Try these newspaper reusing ideas:

  • Make your own paper: Making your own paper from recycled newspapers is a great way to educate your kids about recycling.
  • Moving packaging: If you’re about to change homes, use newsprint to pack up your fragile items like china and glasses.
  • Gift wrap: If you’ve got a funky style, reuse newspaper as gift wrap for your next special event.
  • Odor and shape savers: Crumpled-up newspapers can be used to help hats and shows maintain their shape and will absorb nasty odors in the process.