shredded paperRecycling paper changes the world, because for every ton of reclaimed paper, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space are diverted. Starting with your office paper products is a great way to get involved and become more sustainable, and for the most part, there are very few types of paper that can’t be recycled. You have the power to prevent the estimated 1 billion trees that are thrown away by Americans every year!

Acceptable office products

By recycling your paper office products, they have a chance to become office supplies all over again. Recycling centers and collectors will take corrugated cardboard, magazines, catalogs, telephone books, junk mail, newspapers — most types of paper can be recycled. This includes common office supplies such as sticky notes, printer paper, ream wrapper (from printer paper), notebook paper, file folders, scrap paper, mailers, boxes, postcards, business cards (non-glossy), envelopes, receipts, paper cups (rinsed), etc. While the majority of what you toss out while you work can be recycled, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Unacceptable office products

Papers that cannot be recycled are lumped into three main groups: soiled paper, shredded paper and wax-, plastic- or foil-coated paper. These are the no-nos to general paper recycling that you also have to apply to your workspace. Examples of soiled paper include used facial tissues, napkins and paper towels, take-out boxes, carbon paper and paper plates. Overall, avoid recycling any paper items that have been contaminated with food, bacteria, viruses and mold. These contaminants will affect the pulp that is created at the paper mill, and the pulp cannot be turned back into paper if oil from food leftovers is in the mix. Although you might think shredded paper would be a shoo-in, it’s actually not because the act of cutting the paper into smaller pieces weakens the blend of the paper fibers. As a result of the shredding, the paper isn’t strong enough to go through the recycling process. Shredded office paper includes those private and confidential documents such as credit card bills, classified documents and other documents with personal information that you usually destroy to prevent identity theft. Lastly, wax-, plastic- and foil-coated papers include frozen food boxes, juice boxes, dairy and non-milk (e.g., soymilk) cartons, individually wrapped candies and chocolates, thermal fax paper (glossy) and laminated presentations. Paper can only be recycled approximately eight times, because the recycling process weakens the cellulose or organic plant fibers. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to conserve and recycle as much paper as you can, and it’s easy to start doing so in your office.