Not all materials are recycled the same and not all materials can be recycled indefinitely. Follow our series as we explore how many times different materials can be recycled and search for the phoenix of recycling
Part 2: Paper - 5 to 7 lives
Each time paper is recycled, the fibers get smaller and smaller. Paper molding like egg cartons are the last reincarnation of paper, but these short fibers make them great for composting!
A lot of paper is downcycled into products like newspapers, tissues, and toilet paper. Nevertheless, it is better to recycle paper fiber this way than to harvest new trees for the same purpose.
It takes a lot of water to make paper, whether from virgin wood or recycled fibers. Some of the paper fibers end up washing out in the effluent rather than making it to the final product. Recently in Clark County, we are recycling more of our paper at US companies that must abide by environmental protection laws. These companies only want high quality material without contaminants food residues or moisture, so it's important that you help by recycling right!
- Wet, oily, or soiled paper and cardboard degrades the quality of the output material, so always throw away or compost damp or soiled paper.
- Mixed materials such as frozen food boxes that have aluminum linings or plastic infused in the paperboard cannot be broken down during the pulping process.
- Any packaging that is meant to store food in the freezer or fridge has this "wet-strength" treatment and is not a preferred material for recyclers.
In Clark County, you can recycle drink and soup cartons in your curbside because they are sorted out of the rest of the paper and sent to facilities equipped with a special hydropulper to separate the paper fiber from the plastic and aluminum layers. The Carton Council has had a significant impact towards promoting collection and market demand for carton recycling.
Reduce Waste and Keep Recycling!
Even if a product isn't reincarnated into its original form, recycling extends the lifespan of these materials, and lessens the negative impacts on the earth by reducing the need for raw resources. The most significant change you can make is to reduce your waste, use reusable options, and make consumer choices with the lifecycle of the product and its packaging in mind.