Tissue paper is a common item in practically every home. It exists in various forms: kitchen paper, wrapping paper, facial tissues, and plain toilet paper. As a result, we can find this item in every corner of the home. Apart from the house, offices also use this product for cleaning, packing, and wiping whiteboards. As an environmentally-conscious consumer, the question on your mind could be, “can you recycle tissue paper?”
It seems evident that recycling tissue paper or wrapping paper is safe for the environment on the surface. After all, these items come from paper, right? Unfortunately, the process isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Although tissue paper and wrapping paper come from paper pulp which comes from wood, there are challenges. This article will cover what you need to know regarding the relationship between tissue paper and the recycling process.
Tissue paper is a product that we almost can’t do without. It’s so common that we find it useful for various human needs. Tissue papers exist in many forms. Some of these include wrapping paper for gifts, facial tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels. Many people now use paper towels instead of facial towels to wipe their faces after cleansing. In addition, we use tissues daily for sanitary reasons and cleaning.
When we examine all of these uses, we can see those paper products are an important part of daily life. This also means that it constitutes waste. Due to this widespread use, it’s only normal that people are concerned about how they dispose of these paper products.
So, is tissue paper recyclable? Can you throw it in recycling bins? Well, technically, you can recycle tissue paper. However, most recycling facilities will not deem it recyclable. So, before you decide to toss used tissue paper in the recycling bin, understand the processes in your city.
Tissue paper comes from wood pulp; however, recycling facilities face many challenges in recycling it. Although different counties and countries have different requirements, most communities will not accept tissue paper as recyclable. So, before deeming tissue paper recyclable, it’s important to first check with your local recycling center.
There are various reasons why recyclers may not accept your tissue paper waste or wrapping paper. One of these reasons is that tissue paper does not have enough paper fibers.
During production, the fibers that producers use for tissue paper are often short. As a result, when you recycle such products, you can’t obtain high-quality results. Since recycling companies have recognized this, many of them avoid collecting tissue paper when recycling. In addition, they often don’t get buyers who’ll pay for new recycled products due to the low quality.
Another reason recycling tissue paper can be tricky is that, in many cases, tissue paper comes from recycled paper. Since these products come from recycled materials, they have shortened fibers.
After being recycled, the fibers also lose their quality, making the paper even thinner. If you continue to recycle such tissue paper or wrapping paper, you’ll continue to get low fiber content. This isn’t ideal for making new paper products.
Another reason most communities may not accept used tissue paper is due to fear of contamination. Naturally, you’d be looking to recycle paper that you’ve already used. Within the home alone, various activities call for paper use.
For example, we use paper for activities like wrapping gifts, cleaning food stains, wiping zero waste makeup, and cleaning unhygienic fluids. The moment any of these are attached to your tissue paper or wrapping paper, it becomes a challenge.
If you mix these used tissues with other recyclables, they can contaminate them. As a result, recycling centers will render them useless, and they will have to throw them away.
Additionally, many recyclers might find the process of sorting contaminated items unpleasant and will simply toss them out. So, although some brands label their tissue paper as recyclable paper, the end of the life cycle can often change.
Whether or not you can recycle colored paper depends on your local recycler. Some areas might accept colored tissue paper, but this depends on the components of the paper.
If your tissue or wrapping paper is colorful, this means that the manufacturer added dyes to it. Not all brands indicate the type of dyes they use. As a result, it can be challenging to know whether the tissue paper is environmentally safe or not.
Tissue papers also come in wrapping paper styles. When preparing gifts for friends, family, and colleagues, you can use this as a gift wrap. If you use wrapping paper to wrap gifts often, you might be wondering what to do with the cut-outs and excesses. Also, if you receive a gift in tissue wrapping paper, you might be wondering, “is this tissue paper recyclable?”
Wrapping paper is not exactly what it used to be. Today, many manufacturers produce paper coated with various materials like plastic film, metal, foil, and glitter. For example, some wrapping papers contain glitter components to add to their aesthetic value. Some others have plastic or metallic finishes. Even some gift bags have additional materials like ribbons.
With these components, the paper is no longer recyclable, and you should desist from adding it to recycling bins. Also, avoid adding laminated paper.
So, what makes gift wrap tissue paper recyclable? First, ensure that the wrapping paper is free from additives such as plastic, metal, and glitter. Next, save your used papers and determine if your local recyclers accept plain wrapping paper.
Many recycling programs will collect wrapping papers that don’t contain other pieces or materials. Before tossing any gift wrapping paper in the bin, ensure you remove components like sticky plastic tape. Or check out our guide to eco-friendly gift wrapping for options that are better for the planet.
You might be wondering if you can add tissue paper to your compost pile. And is tissue paper biodegradable? The good thing is that you can add tissue paper to your compost pile, and it will biodegrade. Due to this product’s nature, it can easily soak up moisture from other compost materials like food waste.
As a result of this property, composting tissue paper will result in fast disintegration. Although we can compost tissues, there’s still a clause. You need to ensure that the tissue paper is free from materials like plastic or foil. Plastics take a long time to decompose and are generally not good additions to composts.
A good option would be to get eco-friendly paper from sustainable brands. Most of them are biodegradable and compostable. Apart from new purchases, you can reuse tissue paper as an eco-friendly option.
There’s no doubt that certain types of tissue papers you can’t reuse or recycle. You’ll have to toss them in the trash bin or the appropriate waste management system in those cases.
However, you can reuse and repurpose an item like gift wrapping paper. The first and most obvious thing is to save old wrapping paper. This way, you can use them for papercraft projects or even to re-wrap presents for people. Ideally, you can look for alternatives to single-use papers. These alternatives include newspapers, tote bags, and fabrics for wrapping gifts.
Tissue paper is a staple in many homes. As mentioned earlier, they serve various functions, from wiping surfaces to wrapping items. The truth is, many of these papers are single-use products. As a result, many people face the challenge of properly disposing of them.
Whereas tissue paper can be recycled, it is not quite that simple. You should now be able to distinguish between what products to recycle and compost and those to toss away. To reduce your tissue paper usage, you can opt for reusable options. For instance, using reusable bags to give presents and reusable paper towels instead of paper ones.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.