Pulp Truth: Can I Recycle This?


Paper is the most recycled material in the U.S. today. And while recovery rates remain high, so too do misconceptions around what you can and cannot put into the recycling bin. The good news? The majority of municipalities are well equipped to handle just about anything. So the next time you pause before hitting the “print” button, or select electronic statements thinking you’re doing the environment a favor, consider that paper and packaging aren’t wasteful when recycled properly.

Embrace the bin; you can recycle more than you think.

What goes into the bin:

  • White and colored paper from home, school or the office. Includes writing paper, copy paper, office folders, notebooks, stationary, etc.
  • Cereal and dry food boxes, shoe boxes, laundry detergent boxes, etc.
  • All mail and envelopes (including those with windows), postcards, greeting cards, coupon packets, etc.
  • Boxes used for over-the-counter medicine, cosmetics or perfume; bakery or candy boxes; takeout food containers or beverage cups; pizza and frozen food boxes
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes used for packaging or shipping
  • Paper shopping bags from retail stores, grocery stores and restaurants
  • Magazines and catalogs with glossy paper (no need to remove staples; paper mills today can handle that)
  • Newspaper and newspaper inserts
  • Juice, milk and aseptic cartons
  • Telephone directories (just remove any plastic bags and magnets first)
  • Hardcover or softcover books, wrapping paper (including the cardboard tube), old business cards, etc.


  1. Every municipality is different. For example, cities across the country have varying guidelines to recycle pizza boxes. In addition to removing non-paper inserts or additional packaging (adhesive coupons, etc.) as well as any food residue, check your local recycling rules to see what other guidelines are in place.
  2. Quality does matter. Try to remove all food residues and liquids from paper items before putting them in the bin. Make sure the item is clean and dry. Crumpled paper is still quality paper and goes into the recycling bin!
  3. Books typically contain adhesives in their binding. Look online to find programs in your area that will accept old books and recycle them. Some municipalities may require that you remove the spines of hardcover books prior to recycling.
  • [1]AF&PA: Paper Recycles Study (Recycling Resources), 2013