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Paper: What to recycle and what to toss

Paper exists all around us. Luckily, many kinds of paper are completely recyclable but things like glue and grease can get in the way of it being used again.

Did you know? Every tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees and uses 40% less energy, and 50% less water

The Paper Manufacturers Association of SA says paper can generally be recycled about 5 to 7 times before it needs to be thrown away.

Here are how some items can be recycled into other products

  • Used corrugated boxes can be recycled into new corrugated boxes
  • Newspapers and magazines can become newspapers again
  • Recycled office paper, printer offcuts, newspapers and magazines can become toilet paper
  • Old office paper, corrugated boxes, newspaper and printer offcuts can be made into cereal boxes
  • Newspapers and carton board trims can become egg boxes

Recycle it

You can collect these kinds of paper for recycling

  • White office paper
  • All types of cardboard boxes
  • Envelopes and shredded paper. Do keep in mind, though, that shredding paper reduces the length of its fibres, reducing its recyclability
  • Magazines
  • Brochures
  • Newspapers
  • Wine bottle sleeves
  • Egg cartons
  • Telephone directories
  • Paper gift wrap

Bin it

Not all paper is recyclable. These are things you have to throw away

  • Wet or soiled paper or cardboard products such as paper plates, pizza boxes and tissues, kitchen roll and toilet paper. Recycling centres cannot always adequately clean these for reuse
  • Coated, laminated or foil-lined paper and cardboard. To work out if paper is coated, try tearing it. If it tears easily, it’s most likely recyclable; if it doesn’t, you’ll need to throw it away
  • Confetti and carbon paper
  • Stickers and Post-it notes
  • Cement bags
  • Dog food bags that are lined with plastic
  • Disposable nappies
  • Tetra Pak fruit juice and milk containers. It’s not always possible to easily separate paper from the aluminium foil and plastic lining

To be a responsible paper user, buyers should look for certifications from organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. The FSC is a global, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management.

It’s also important to buy from local suppliers and if you’re printing something out, make sure you print on both sides of the paper.