Good, Higher, Greatest — Slicing Down Paper Waste

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

Paper is among the best supplies to recycle, however it nonetheless makes up the biggest part of Individuals’ rubbish.

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

Paper Waste

Maybe on account of China’s ban on imported recyclables, or maybe because of the improve in shopper spending, American recycling efforts appear to have stalled out. The whole era of municipal stable waste in 2017 (the latest yr for which EPA has knowledge) was 267.8 million tons. That’s 4.51 kilos of rubbish per individual every single day. It’s additionally about 5.7 million tons greater than in 2015, and a giant leap 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 annually and recycle roughly 44 million tons. Regardless of the general improve in waste era, paper waste has been declining since 2005.

Much less paper is being generated to throw away, due to growing digitization. However with paper filling a full quarter of our rubbish bins, there may be nonetheless plenty of it going to waste.


You may take easy steps to cut back the quantity of paper you employ. Regardless of China’s ban disrupting the curbside recycling system in America, paper remains to be recyclable in most communities. Paper recycling takes virtually no effort and makes a giant distinction to the planet.

Right here is how you can be good about paper waste:

  • The best approach to scale back the quantity of paper and cardboard you throw away is to recycle paper via your curbside program.
  • Recycle solely clear paper. Wishful recycling of dirty paper can contaminate your entire load.
  • Subscribe to the digital model of the newspaper as a substitute of print — simply think about that the Sunday version of the New York Instances requires 75,000 timber to supply.
  • Set your printer to two-sided printing, and reuse paper earlier than recycling it.
  • Select 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 little bit effort goes a good distance.

Contact your native stable 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 have to recycle extra and step by step exchange paper merchandise with reusable ones:

  • Obtain the iRecycle app or search the Earth911 recycling database in your laptop to discover a recycler close to you. Even if in case you have curbside service, use the database to seek out out the place you possibly can recycle different sorts of paper like paperback books or drink packing containers.
  • Soiled paper towels, disposable napkins, and pizza packing containers can’t be recycled. However they are often composted. Discover out in case your neighborhood gives yard waste recycling In the event that they don’t, begin a dwelling compost bin.
  • Keep away from the paper or plastic downside with reusable procuring and tote baggage.
  • Change sack lunches with a lunchbox or furoshiki (these also can exchange disposable reward wrap).
  • Digitize the whole lot you possibly can. Use note-taking apps and digital calendars as a substitute of notebooks; join digital billing and digital magazines.
  • Register your mail preferences with the Direct Advertising and marketing Affiliation and make contact with the Shopper Credit score Reporting Trade’s Choose-Out Program to not obtain bank card and insurance coverage gives by calling 1-888-567-8688 or registering on-line.


As a result of 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 folks critically try a paper-free way of life.

To attain zero waste, do the very best you possibly can to remove paper and recycle the whole lot you do use. Should you’ve already completed the Good and Higher objectives, you’ll have observed that meals packaging makes up a lot of the paper waste you’ve gotten left.

  • Zero waste grocery procuring requires a significant shift in procuring habits — looking for out new shops and bulk merchandise, carrying reusable containers, and making much more meals from scratch — however it is going to have a huge impact on the quantity of paperboard you employ.
  • Eliminating pizza packing containers and take-out containers would require extra dwelling cooking.
  • Subsequent, think about napkins, tissues, and paper towels. Switching to material napkins is straightforward, whereas handkerchiefs could also be a little bit more durable. Breaking the habit to paper towels as a substitute of simply composting them would require rethinking the way you clear. However sponges, scrub brushes, and material towels work simply as nicely or higher than paper.
  • Whereas giving up rest room paper could also be a stretch for a lot of Individuals, bidets provide a paper-free various. And if that appears too excessive, think about switching to bamboo or hemp rest room paper. Whereas not zero waste, it’s a way more sustainable resolution than common paper.

Learn half two on this sequence: Good, Higher, Greatest — Eliminating Plastic Waste

Editor’s observe: This text was initially printed on April 6, 2020.

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