lightbulb.jpg Paper’s an important and dominant item in the recycling process: It accounts for more than half of all recyclables collected in the U.S. and carries a recycling rate of 65 percent, according to the EPA. In fact, 70 percent of newspaper and 91 percent of corrugated cardboard were recovered in 2012. Paper products are also used in surprising ways, such as making hospital gowns, car insulation and masking tape. Yet paper can’t be recycled indefinitely. After five to seven times of being recycled, the fibers become too short to bind to new paper. So recycling new paper items becomes that much more important. You may already know about standard recycling items like newspaper, magazines and cereal boxes, but there is a list of surprising paper items you can also recycle come pick-up day. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s made of paper, it can probably be recycled. That means, according to the EPA, don’t overlook:
  • Shredded paper, as long as it’s an appropriate size for your collectors and does not contain other items like plastic (you may need to check with your local collectors)
  • Mixed paper like junk mailers, paperboard, telephone books and catalogs
  • High-grade paper like envelopes, letterhead and copier paper
  • Shavings and clippings from print shops
Since paper can be used for so many products, yet can only be recycled so many times, it’s a good practice to have some sort of system in your home for recycling and reusing paper. Here are some helpful tips for recycling paper in your home:
  • Keep a shredder that shreds junk mail and confidential documents into an appropriate size to be recycled.
  • Get double use out of your paper and save money. Use both sides of the paper, especially when printing or taking notes.
  • Similarly, keep a scrap paper box for jotting down notes (usually the other side of used paper).
  • Remember to reuse newspaper where you can, such as lining a pet’s cage.
  • Keep old magazines and newspapers for craft projects.

An unconventional, but still viable, option is to make your own paper out of used paper. This link here gives a great tutorial on how to do so. It’s a messy project involving a mixing bowl and some starch, so it’ll be great to do with kids (and shredded paper).

Yet another option is to reuse paper in upcycle projects. You’d be shocked what you can make with some old paper (everything from jewelry to home décor items). You’ll have a fun, crafty project you can display for use for years to come, without throwing paper into a recycling process that gives it a more limited lifespan. Below are 20 ideas to get you started:
Folded Book Art It’s easy to forget that books can be upcycled. There’s a lot of different ways to fold books into artistic décor items. Go here to see a cute little book hedgehog that would look great on a mantle. Mod Podge Coffee Table with Paper Items Paper items and Mod Podge (a type of decoupage glue) always go well together. Go here to see a coffee table that was personalized with maps, postcards and photos. I’ve also seen this done with classic comic books and newspaper headlines. Paper Mache Crafts with Kids Paper mache crafts are a perfect use for old paper. It’s a fun, sticky project to do with kids. Go to Ultimate Paper Mache for some great recipes and projects. Magazine Box Rolled magazines also make some colorful, sturdy craft items. Go here to find a photo of a knickknack box someone made entirely out of rolled magazine pages. You’ll just need a lot of magazines, patience and Mod Podge glue. Magazine Bowl Rolled magazines also make some great bowls. Go here to see a picture of such a project. That one was made from old magazines and posters (another often-forgotten item to upcycle). Paper Wreath Old paper also makes great material for a colorful and uniquely textured wreath that can be used year-round. Go here for a tutorial on how to make one using old magazine pages. Magazine Wall Art Rolled magazines also work well as flat wall art. See an example here. Collage Made of Old Books Old books can be used in a number of creative, artistic ways. Ekaterina Panikanova makes them into inspired collages. Pencil Holder If you have some old paper, try making a pencil holder. The one here uses rolled magazines to make a unique looping pattern. Clock You can even make a clock out of rolled old magazines. Go here to find some creative takes on upcycled magazine clocks. Picture Frame Consider using old magazines, newspapers and other colorful paper to make picture frames. The one here uses rolled newspaper spirals to form a unique pattern. Basket A creative project would also be to weave some magazines strips into a square basket. You can find the tutorial here. Wall Art Here’s another fine example of some wall art. This crafter used loops of old paper to form a flower pattern. Paper Flowers When in doubt, you can always make some paper flowers. Attaching them to wire stems makes a great centerpiece. Here’s a list of some great tutorials for various flower styles. Paper Lamp You can even make some unique lamps using old paper. Here’s an example of a paper lamp made by a professional artist. For a more simple design, here’s a video tutorial on how to make paper lanterns of your own. Jewelry You can also make some unique earrings and bracelet charms. The tutorial here shows you how. Shoes If you really want to go nuts with it, you can make some sandals out of old newspaper. Here’s an example of some shoes that look surprisingly stylish. Pencils Ok, you can’t make pencils out of old paper at home. But you can decorate them by wrapping them in paper and gluing with Mod Podge. Here’s a good example. These have a varnish finish to them. Purse This project makes great use of an old daily crossword paper for a new purse design. The newspaper was fortified, then placed between two layers of vinyl. Figures You can even make some sculptures out of recycled newspaper. This dog statue is a great example. The sky’s the limit when you get creative. Tell me about your favorite ways to upcycle paper in the comments below.