Is Tissue Paper Recyclable?
Tissue paper is a popular packaging option for many stores and shipping businesses that need a simple, colorful way to protect merchandise. But what can you do with this tissue paper when it’s done? Some people assume that, because it has “paper” in its name, tissue paper can be recycled just like printer paper or cardstock. But the structure of this packaging paper is different than these traditional paper products and may have to be disposed of differently as a result. Let’s look at paper recycling more closely and where tissue paper fits in this process.
What Makes Paper Recyclable
Pretty much all paper products are made by pressing processed wood fibers together. The longer the fibers are, the stronger and more flexible the paper is. High-quality office paper is made of longer fibers because this strength is needed for use in printers and copiers. Conversely, newsprint, wrapping paper and tissue paper are made from shorter, lower-quality fibers that aren’t as strong.
This is also relevant when it comes to recycling. The recycling process causes the existing fibers to shorten. The more times a single paper product is recycled, the weaker the resulting recovered paper is. This means it has less value for recycling centers since fewer paper mills will be willing to pay for the results. In fact, the EPA estimates that after five to seven trips through the recycling process, paper fibers typically become too short to make new paper.
Recycling Value of Tissue Paper
What does this mean when it comes to recycling tissue paper? As mentioned before, the fibers in tissue paper are already short. In fact, it is often made from recycled paper in the first place, as these fibers are appropriate for tissue paper’s look and feel. In turn, a recycling center often can’t produce enough useable fibers from it to be worthwhile. This is especially true for dyed tissue paper – not only will the paper itself produce mediocre recycling results, but the dyes will run into the other recycling paper and ruin the whole batch.
Recycling Used Tissue Paper
All that being said, some municipalities do accept tissue paper for recycling, as long as it isn’t dyed and doesn’t contain food waste or glitter (two other things that ruin paper recyclables). However, you will have to check with your local recycling center. (For example, Philadelphia and Chicago will accept tissue paper and wrapping paper for recycling while Houston will not.) In some cases, you will need to bring it to a special recycling center.
However, there are two better options for tissue paper: reusing and composting. As long as tissue paper hasn’t been contaminated with food/liquid/etc., it can be reused a number of times for packaging. When it has reached the point where you need to dispose of it, many cities and municipalities (such as San Francisco) recommend adding it to the compost pile. While the fibers may be too short to recycle again, they are still fully biodegradable. This makes composting tissue paper a safe natural way to dispose of it instead of just throwing it into the trash to go to a landfill.