Good, Better, Best — Cutting Down Paper Waste

Good, Better, Best — Cutting Down Paper Waste

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This is the primary in a sequence of articles about decreasing family waste generated by the most typical supplies within the waste stream.

Paper is without doubt one of the best supplies to recycle, nevertheless it nonetheless makes up the biggest element of Americans’ rubbish.

A full 25% of municipal strong waste (MSW) in America is paper and paperboard (additionally known as “cardboard”). Eliminating paper waste fully would require a Herculean effort for most individuals, however whether or not you wish to do good, higher, or greatest, you’ll be able to cut back your paper waste and recycle extra of the paper you do use.

Paper Waste

Perhaps because of China’s ban on imported recyclables, or maybe as a result of enhance in consumer spending, American recycling efforts appear to have stalled out. The total generation of municipal strong waste in 2017 (the latest 12 months for which EPA has information) was 267.8 million tons. That’s 4.51 kilos of rubbish per individual day by day. It’s additionally about 5.7 million tons greater than in 2015, and an enormous soar up from 208 million tons generated in 1990 when recycling hadn’t but caught on nationwide.

We throw away about 67 million tons of paper and paperboard every year and recycle roughly 44 million tons. Despite the general enhance in waste technology, paper waste has been declining since 2005.

Less paper is being generated to throw away, due to growing digitization. But with paper filling a full quarter of our rubbish bins, there’s nonetheless quite a lot of it going to waste.


You can take simple steps to scale back the quantity of paper you utilize. Despite China’s ban disrupting the curbside recycling system in America, paper remains to be recyclable in most communities. Paper recycling takes nearly no effort and makes an enormous distinction to the planet.

Here is learn how to be good about paper waste:

  • The easiest approach to cut back the quantity of paper and cardboard you throw away is to recycle paper by way of your curbside program.
  • Recycle solely clear paper. Wishful recycling of dirty paper can contaminate all the load.
  • Subscribe to the digital model of the newspaper as an alternative of print — simply take into account that the Sunday version of the New York Times requires 75,000 trees to produce.
  • Set your printer to two-sided printing, and reuse paper earlier than recycling it.
  • Choose paper merchandise made with recycled content material.


If you wish to do higher than good, or in case your neighborhood doesn’t have curbside recycling, a bit effort goes a good distance.

Contact your native strong waste utility to allow them to know you worth recycling (use your rubbish invoice to seek out out whom to name). To handle paper waste higher, you’ll must recycle extra and progressively exchange paper merchandise with reusable ones:

  • Download the iRecycle app or search the Earth911 recycling database in your laptop to discover a recycler close to you. Even when you have curbside service, use the database to seek out out the place you’ll be able to recycle different varieties of paper like paperback books or drink bins.
  • Dirty paper towels, disposable napkins, and pizza bins can’t be recycled. But they are often composted. Find out in case your neighborhood provides yard waste recycling If they don’t, begin a home compost bin.
  • Avoid the paper or plastic downside with reusable shopping and tote luggage.
  • Replace sack lunches with a lunchbox or furoshiki (these may also exchange disposable reward wrap).
  • Digitize all the things you’ll be able to. Use note-taking apps and digital calendars as an alternative of notebooks; join electronic billing and digital magazines.
  • Register your mail preferences with the Direct Marketing Association and speak to the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry’s Opt-Out Program to not obtain bank card and insurance coverage provides by calling 1-888-567-8688 or registering online.


Because paper is definitely recyclable, paper merchandise are sometimes the greener alternative amongst supplies. So whereas plastic-free is a objective for a lot of, few individuals severely try a paper-free way of life.

To obtain zero waste, do one of the best you’ll be able to to eradicate paper and recycle all the things you do use. If you’ve already achieved the Good and Better targets, you should have seen that meals packaging makes up a lot of the paper waste you could have left.

  • Zero waste grocery shopping requires a serious shift in purchasing habits — searching for out new shops and bulk merchandise, carrying reusable containers, and making much more meals from scratch — however it is going to have a big effect on the quantity of paperboard you utilize.
  • Eliminating pizza bins and take-out containers would require extra house cooking.
  • Next, take into account napkins, tissues, and paper towels. Switching to material napkins is simple, whereas handkerchiefs could also be a bit more durable. Breaking the addiction to paper towels as an alternative of simply composting them would require rethinking the way you clear. But sponges, scrub brushes, and cloth towels work simply as nicely or higher than paper.
  • While giving up rest room paper could also be a stretch for a lot of Americans, bidets provide a paper-free various. And if that appears too excessive, take into account switching to bamboo or hemp toilet paper. While not zero waste, it’s a way more sustainable resolution than common paper.

Read half two on this sequence: Good, Better, Best — Eliminating Plastic Waste

Editor’s be aware: This article was initially printed on April 6, 2020.