Recycling & Waste Management

Propel Your Paper Power - Take Some Action

You can propel your paper recycling efforts if you know all the kinds of paper that can be recycled and how to separate high and low-grade papers. The effort spent on paper is worth it, because according to the EPA, it is the largest portion of our municipal solid waste stream at 34%. And PaperRecycles.org explains that for every ton of paper recycled, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space is saved.

Don’t forget your three Rs! What can you do to Reduce paper before you even have to Recycle it? Use RecycleWorks’ links to reduce the amount of junkmail you receive.

Just like with other major recycling categories, properly recycling paper requires you to check with the specific recycling program you’re working with to see how they want the paper prepared. They’ll have specifications on the level of foreign contamination they’ll accept, how they want it sorted, and what kinds of containers it should be in.

Usually, it will be worth it to have your paper sorted into at least one or two paper types because if you don’t sort your paper, you’ll generally only get paid the price of the lowest quality paper in the mix.



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So, we’ve laid out the different grades of paper below as they are generally categorized in many recycling programs. But, if you just want to find recycling information on a specific type of paper, like a magazine or cardboard, then visit Earth911’s paper page. Click on the type of paper you’re inquiring about on the toolbar that runs across the top of the screen.

These are the types of paper as described by WasteCap of Massachusetts and Ohio State University

High Grade
  • Computer Print-out—the high quality paper used in continuous-feed impact and laser printers. It can be color barred or blank.

  • White Ledger—this is general office paper that is non-glossy, printed or unprinted, including letterhead, typing, and copy machine paper. White notebook paper also fits into this category.

  • Colored Ledger—this is non-glossy, printed or unprinted colored paper. The only difference between it and white ledger is the fact that it’s colored. But, this does make them different, and you should make sure that the colored ledger is actually not white ledger in disguise. You can find out by tearing a piece of it. If the exposed fibers are white, then it’s actually white ledger!
Low Grade
  • Mixed Office Paper—this is the term for a mixture of clean recyclable paper, including white and colored ledger, colored and glossy paper, manila folders, junk mail, tabulating cards, brochures, pamphlets, windowed envelopes, and sticky notes. Sometimes this stream of paper includes newspapers and magazines, and sometimes it does not. Check with your local recycler to find out what exactly is included.

  • Groundwood Computer Paper— the paper that looks like phone book paper.

  • Corrugated Cardboard—the kind of cardboard that is used in cardboard boxes. To learn more about how to recycle cardboard, check out WasteCap’s cardboard page.

  • Newspaper—old newspapers.

  • Magazines—old magazines that often have coated covers and have pages either stapled or glued together in a binding usually less than one inch thick.
Not Usually Recyclable
  • Brown Kraft Envelopes

  • Blueprint Paper

  • Paper Contaminated by Food.

Don’t overlook the potential to recycle books, especially for the cause of education! Having a book swap is a great way to engage the community with the school. Also try selling books to local bookstores, the International Book Project (888-999-2665), online book sites like amazon.com, or thrift stores. If you can’t sell them, check with your city’s recycling program because some cities like New York offer curbside programs that recycle paperbacks, comics, and other soft-covers. Some programs even accept hardcovers.


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