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Paper Tips for Recycling, Reuse and Reduction


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Recycling and Reducing Paper Effectively

California manages nearly 14 million tons of postconsumer paper generated annually in the state. That's up from 9.5 million tons about 10 years ago. Because California's generation of paper continues to increase, recycling alone will not necessarily reduce the amount of paper sent to landfills. All sectors of society—manufacturers, businesses, government organizations, and private residents—must also reduce the amounts of paper we use. Reducing our consumption of paper not only benefits the environment, but often improves a business' bottom line and operating efficiency. Private residents, too, can benefit economically by reducing paper use.

Reduce Paper Waste for 50% savings

Paper waste prevention is the practice of reducing or eliminating paper use so that the potential for paper to be used inefficiently or disposed is prevented in the first place.

Printing paper on both sides of the sheet—rather than on one side—is a classic example of paper waste prevention, as it can reduce the need for paper by up to 50 percent.

Recycling Paper Isn't Enough

Even if all paper was recycled, there would still be a need for paper to be made from virgin resources, as individual paper fibers can only be recycled a finite number of times (generally 5-10).

Paper waste prevention reduces the environmental impacts associated with both paper manufacture (including the demands on our forest resources) and paper recycling.


In 2003, recyclable office paper represented over nine percent of the paper disposed in California, amounting to approximately 785,147 tons, with over 58 percent from commercial sources! Paper is the second largest component of California's commercial waste stream, accounting for about 26.5 percent of all commercial materials disposed. Furthermore, the commercial sector accounts for approximately 47 percent of all materials disposed in the state.

Paper disposal is not only indicative of inefficient use of resources, it indicates time and money spent on activities that are not essential to a business's productivity.

  • Adopt a "Double-Sided" Policy to print all individual documents on both sides of the page. Set Computer Defaults to Print Double-Sided.
  • Minor Hand Written Corrections are OK. An in-house policy allowing internal documents to be submitted with minor legible handwritten corrections. Make it okay to make neat handwritten corrections to fix typos and punctuation errors, add or delete a word.
  • Preview Documents Before Printing. Proofread documents on screen before printing.
  • Print Only the Pages You Need.
  • Don't Use Labels on Envelopes. Save the cost of buying mailing labels to maintain the recyclability of those envelopes. "Sticky" labels are a paper recycling contaminant.
  • Practice Preventive Copier Maintenance and only buy copiers and printers that make reliable double-sided copies.
  • Route Memos and Newsletters. Instead of making a copy for each person, route one copy around the office.
  • Reduce and double-side standard forms. When possible, convert forms to online, electronic forms to eliminate the need for blank hard copy forms.
  • Provide Trays to Collect and Reuse One-Sided Paper. Encourage employees to save and reuse paper printed on only one side at their desks.
  • Send Information Electronically. Use e-mail for forms, document transmittals and faxes.
  • Reduce Unwanted Mail. Contact mail senders to take your company's name off their mailing list or mark unwanted first class mail "Refused, Return to Sender."
  • Eliminate Excess Mailings. Trim mailing lists used to send information
  • Let employees know that their paper reduction efforts not only save paper, but also postage costs (from reduced mail volume), and storage space requirements.
  • Consider Formalizing your Efforts in a Paper Reduction Campaign.

For More Help:

CIWMB Waste Prevention Information Exchange, (916) 341-6363. The Info Exchange has sample outreach materials from other organizations and offers technical assistance.

CIWMB Buy Recycled Program, (916) 341-6481.

For the name of your local recycling coordinator call the Board's Office of Local Assistance at (915) 341-6481.

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PROBLEM: Wasted paper depletes forestry...which affects air quality...and costs companies unnecessary operational funds.

SOLUTION: Reduce paper use, Reuse paper...and Recycle paper responsibly.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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