Why should you recycle paper?
Recyclable paper has been prohibited from disposal in Massachusetts since 1994 by the Massachusetts Waste Bans.
In today’s economy, many businesses recycle paper because it saves them money on waste disposal costs. Recycling is also good for the planet and your local community because it helps conserve valuable resources, reduces pollution from production of new materials, and creates jobs. Since paper is made from trees, recycling paper and using paper with recycled content really does reduce the demand to cut down trees. On average, one ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees. Because of its value, businesses and institutions often receive some revenue from paper sent for recycling.
How does paper get recycled?
Many paper recycling options exist for businesses and institutions across the state and most types of paper can be recycled. In Massachusetts, most paper recycling goes through a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) or paper processing plant. When your recycling container is emptied by your hauler, the material is brought back to a facility for sorting. Trucks dump the materials out on the tipping floor, and the items are moved on a system of conveyor belts and sorters to group like items (cardboard, office paper, newspaper). Once baled, this paper is shipped to paper mills both locally and abroad.
The paper recycling process generally shreds paper in to fine pieces and adds water to the paper, creating a slurry mixture. The slurry is then applied to a screen-like surface and is mechanically dried to make new paper products.
What happens after paper is recycled?
The paper recycling process is a highly mechanical one. Each time a piece of paper gets recycled, the fibers (remember paper comes from tree fibers) are somewhat broken down. High grade office paper can be recycled into new copy and printer paper and works very reliably in today’s office machines. As this paper goes through the recycling process repeatedly, it may become newspaper and magazine stock. Newspaper can be deinked and recycled into new newspaper stock which eventually can become bathroom tissue and paper towels, after which it is no longer recyclable, but can be composted.
Mixed office paper is an industry term that describes a wide variety of low grade paper. It can be recycled into many products, including facial tissues and toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, egg cartons, paper grocery bags and paperboard. Paperboard is a product that is commonly used to make game boards, book covers, and a variety of other products. Recycled paper from Massachusetts was used to make the hard covers on the Harry Potter books.
Paper Shredding and Document Destruction
Paper documents that contain confidential or sensitive information are often disposed of as trash, either as is or after being shredded. However, there are many service providers that can recycle this material while ensuring the destruction of personal and sensitive information. For businesses and institutions that choose to process (i.e. shred) confidential and sensitive documents in-house, it is recommended to talk with your recycling hauler about whether or not they accept shredded paper in recycling bins.
There are numerous businesses in Massachusetts that can assist you in recycling sensitive or confidential paperwork. For help finding a paper shredding or document destruction service please search our database of recyclers or click here for a complete list.
If you are a shredding and recycling service provider and would like to be added to this list, contact RecyclingWorks by email or by phone at 1-888-254-5525.
Learn about recycling other materials
For more information on other commonly recycled materials visit these pages:
- Bottles & Cans
- Construction Materials
- Fluorescent Lamps/Light Bulbs
- Food Waste
- Find out how to start or improve your own recycling program.
- Find a hauler or processor for recyclable materials in your area, search our Recycler Database.
- Find out how you can purchase recycled products, check out our Buying Recycled Products section.
- For more information on recycling in Massachusetts check out the MassDEP Factsheet: Where does it all go?
- Learn about Massachusetts Waste Bans