Paper and Cardboard Recycling Tips: How to be an even better recycler!

Paper and Cardboard Recycling Tips: How to be an even better recycler!

Paper and Cardboard Recycling Tips 

Keep up the good work!

Paper and cardboard recycling is a success we should all be proud of. A cardboard box can be recycled up to 25 times making it the most recycled packaging material in Europe. Recycling is now part of our everyday routine and although we’re doing a great job, there is always room for improvement. Keep reading to learn about recycling contamination and the common mistakes you might be making that could undo all your hard work.

What is recycling contamination?

Contamination in recycling refers to anything that’s in your paper & cardboard recycling that shouldn’t be when you put it out for collection. Sometimes this is the result of ‘wishcycling’ – when we chuck without checking, in the hope that something is recyclable.

Why is recycling contamination bad?

If there are too many of the wrong things, it can mean that whole loads of paper can’t be recycled. Any paper & cardboard that is rejected for recycling may be sent for landfill or incineration which incurs costs that are borne by all of us, as taxpayers.

What’s the environmental impact of recycling contamination?

Rejected paper & cardboard means we are losing valuable raw materials for making new paper products. Each time a bale of recycled paper & cardboard is rejected, we lose the raw material for making around 20,000 new pizza boxes. 

Bales of recycled paper 

Tips to avoid contamination in your paper recycling.

By making sure the right things are in your paper & cardboard recycling bin, we can all help the planet, save money, and make the recycling process more effective. 

Food Waste

1. Food Waste

Ensure no food waste, such as that last uneaten slice of pizza in the pizza box, enters your paper & cardboard recycling. Food waste creates moulds which can quickly spread and contaminate the clean paper in your recycling. This weakens paper fibres, resulting in decomposition and creating bales of rotten and unusable paper for recycling.

Food and drink carton

2. Food and Drink Cartons

Food and drink cartons (such as Tetra Pak) can’t always be recycled in your kerbside recycling alongside standard paper & cardboard. Check with your local council to see whether it accepts them kerbside or where your nearest drop-off location is.

Potato Chips

3. Potato Chip Tubes

Snack tubes contain plastic and foil which cannot be separated from the cardboard and so cannot be recycled. These should be placed in your general waste or taken to a dedicated tube drop-off point.

Tissue Paper

4. Tissues and paper towels

Although they are paper products, the fibres used are not of high enough quality to be recycled. They’re also often in contact with food, body fluids, grease, and dirt adding to the contamination. 

Paper cups

5. Paper Cups

Paper cups contain a plastic coating, making them both heat and leakproof, but this coating means the cups cannot be turned into recycled paper alongside standard paper & cardboard. These should be placed in your general waste or taken to any major coffee retailer for specialist recycling.

Wet wipes

6. Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are made from synthetic fibres that prevent them from being recyclable and also shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet either. So, after use, they should be disposed of in your general waste bin.

Foil Paper

7. Foil wrapping paper

Foil wrapping paper is made from polypropylene, a type of plastic which can't be recycled into new paper products. When it comes to normal wrapping paper if you can scrunch it and it stays scrunched then you can recycle. However, please remove any sticky tape, tags or ribbons as these are not recyclable into new paper products.

Glittery Card

8. Glittery greeting cards

Everyone loves a bit of glitter, especially at Christmas, but glitter is made from microplastics and can’t be recycled into new paper products. When recycling cards containing glittery sections, tear these off and only recycle the non-glittery parts.

Greaseproof paper

9. Greaseproof and baking papers

Burger and other takeaway wrapping paper contain a silicone coating which cannot be recycled by paper making machinery. It should go directly into general waste, even if unused or clean.

Other recyclables

10. Other Recyclables (Plastics, glass, cans)

Standing in front of a selection of bins it can be confusing to understand what goes where and things can get thrown in the wrong bin. Always take a moment to check you have the right bin and if you’re unsure, please check the information provided by your council.

Smurfit Kappa Recycling

Smurfit Kappa is leading recycler of paper and cardboard, reprocessing over 8 million tonnes each year. Our circular business model means we make new boxes from old boxes.

More on recycling

Bales of paper and cardboard for recycling

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