A Beginner’s Guide to Recycled Paper

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Reducing paper waste is a goal many share. The great news is that there are numerous ways of accomplishing this without implementing dramatic changes that might cripple your ability to run an efficient office. These include widening print margins and using smaller fonts to require fewer sheets for documents. In addition, printing to both sides of a sheet can literally cut your paper use in half. Buying recycled paper is another way that you can support efforts to save trees and conserve natural resources.

What Kind of Paper Can Be Recycled?

17947According to the EPA, there are five basic “paper grade” categories that determine the how each is recycled, and to what use they’re best suited. Old newspapers, for example, can be converted by recycling mills to produce paper products like tissue. High-grade paper, which includes used printer paper and envelopes, can be converted to produce high grade writing and printing paper after it’s gone through a deinking process. This means that all kinds of paper products – from corrugated cardboard to shredded office letterhead – are able to be recycled and repurposed.

Is Recycled Paper Cheaper or More Expensive to Buy?

Although prices for recycled paper continue to drop due to improved efficiencies, paper manufactured from repurposed materials remains generally higher than standard, “virgin” paper. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first has to do with the law of supply and demand. Because the demand for virgin paper is greater than the demand for recycled paper, manufacturers are able to produce it in greater quantities and sell it at lower cost. There is also more processing involved in the manufacturing of recycled paper, which requires makers to set prices at levels that make it economically feasible to stay in operation. That’s not to say you’re always going to pay an arm and a leg to buy recycled paper. Performing a bit of comparative shopping can yield economically beneficial results, especially if you choose lower quality recycled paper to use for quick draft print jobs. And then there’s the concept of “voting with your wallet.” By continuing to buy recycled paper, you are giving signal to manufacturers that the demand exists.

How to Recycle Your Paper

Most cities across the nation provide recycle containers that can be used to responsibly dispose of used paper. There are also recycling locations everywhere, and no shortage of online resources to help you find the nearest to you. Check out RecycleFinder.com, 1800Recycling.com, and Earth911.com to get started.

Buying Recycled Paper: Recycled vs. Recyclable

Here’s one thing to bear in mind when buying recycled paper. There’s a big difference between recycled paper and recyclable paper. The latter indicates paper that can be recycled after it’s been used – but as we’ve already pointed out, all paper can be recycled, so purchasing a ream of printer paper that is labeled recyclable is really no better practice than purchasing paper that isn’t. Recycled paper, on the other hand, is paper that has actually been produced using recycling methods. Both bear symbols that are similar in design, which can be a bit tricky. If you want to ensure you’re using bona fide sustainable paper that’s already been recycled, pay close attention to the verbiage and the seals printed on the package.


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