Not all paper can be recycled, and trying to do so might make it so your entire bin is rubbish. Sometimes fibers are too short, other times products are made with contaminants. So before you throw your paper into the bin, make sure it actually belongs there. These 9 often end up in the bin when they really belong somewhere else:
1. Napkins and tissue
Despite the fact that most people toss their tissue and paper napkin in the recycling bin, these items actually don’t belong there. In both cases, the fibres are too short and won’t break down properly during the recycling process. Adding them to your recycling bin will probably result in the entire thing being contaminated and tossed in the landfill. Instead, opt for fabric napkins and kerchiefs as both can be used and washed!
2. Paper towel
Clean paper towels could be recycled, but chances are you aren’t simply tossing a clean roll in your recycling bin (that would be a BIG waste). But used paper towel comes into contact with grease, chemicals and organic matter that renders it too contaminated to recycle. Instead, opt for reusable cloths, rags or sponges.
3. Wax paper
Wax paper is made with petroleum-based additives that gives it the ability to resist water and heat, in some cases. This also means that it can’t be recycled because the wax can’t be removed from the paper fibers. Instead, look for wax paper that’s made with natural ingredients like soy wax or beeswax that you can compost. Alternatively, you can use washable silicone or wax mats.
Any receipt that’s made of thermal paper can’t be recycled. The paper is coated in bisphenol-A, a contaminating substance. Even simply tossing your receipts in the same bin as your recyclable products can render them contaminated. Instead, opt for electronic versions of receipts.
5. Shredded paper
Once paper has been shredded it’s considered waste. Shredding paper renders the fibres too tiny and difficult to sort and process. There is no-doubt some paper that needs to be shredded, but you want to reduce as much as possible. For those that you have to shred, you can use it as compost or mulch in your garden.
6. Coated paper for coffee cups
Many coffee cups are actually coated in plastic, which means they can’t be recycled. This plastic helps to make the cups waterproof and prevents leaks. The best alternative is to bring your own coffee cup. Many places will give you a discount for putting your drink in something that can be washed and brought back!
7. Wrapping paper
Wrapping paper is often made with synthetic materials and dyes that can’t be recycled. Even if the paper is recyclable, chances are it’s covered in tape or other adhesives that make it unusable. If you simply must use wrapping paper, try to find an eco-friendly version that’s made of recycled materials, and avoid using tape.
8. Milk or juice cartons
Both milk and juice cartons tend to be coated in wax or plastic to ensure they’re waterproof and don’t spoil. While this is great for commercial purposes, it renders them not recyclable. However, they might be accepted at local composting facilities, and remember those that are plastic can be recycled at depots.
9. Pizza boxes
Despite the fact that much cardboard can be recycled, pizza boxes cannot. They are often covered in grease and food residue that contaminates the recyclable material. If the box isn’t soiled or is lightly soiled enough that a rise will clean anything off, you may be able to recycle it. But composting is probably going to be your best bet.