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Are Magazines Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?


If magazines are piling up fast in your home, you may want a safe disposal option. A common possible solution that always comes up is recycling. But can you recycle magazines? Yes, you can! Most of the periodicals you love to flip through can be recycled and used again to create new magazines, newspapers, and other paper products.

And the recycling process isn’t just good for the environment—it’s also good for your wallet. Recycling will save you money on disposal costs and help you earn a little extra cash.

So how do you recycle magazines? Read on to find out.

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How to Recycle Magazines

The magazine recycling process is almost identical to recycling other paper products, such as newspapers. But unlike the rest, the process starts as follows:

  • First, remove plastic wrappings, stickers, and all fluid cosmetic product samples. (It’s okay if you miss those little tapes. The recycling plant will remove them for you.)
  • After that, place them in a recycling bin or bag. If you have a lot of magazines, you can bundle them together with string or put them in a cardboard box.
  • Once your magazines are bundled up, send them with your regular curbside recycling pickup or drop them off at a local recycling center.

It’s that easy! But what happens to the magazines at the recycling center?

stack of magazines
Image By: Pixabay, Pexels
  • The recycling process begins at the sorting facility. Once that’s over, they are then labeled as mixed paper. That’s because magazines come from a blend of different quality fibers.
  • Depending on the labeling, they get transported to a hopper and then to a floatation vet containing water and chemicals.
  • After that, they will go through a pulping process. They get heated, mulched, and broken down into mushes, forming a pulp. They are then cleaned and screened to eliminate unwanted materials like staples and pins.
  • The sorted pulp gets spun in a large cylinder. This process removes heavy particles, leaving the useful light particles at the center.
  • This final pulp gets de-inked using surfactants and then bleached. If it’s to make other things like cardboard, bleaching is not necessary.
  • After all these processes, the pulp is finally ready for new paper products. It gets pressed and dried to make new sheets of paper.

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How to Know If Your Magazine Is Recyclable

While magazines are technically paper, not all your collection can get recycled. The materials used and how they are made will determine whether they are recyclable. For example, according to the Conservatree website, magazine papers are mainly wood fiber but with a coating layer of clay called gloss. This layer soaks between the fiber gaps and gives the paper a smooth and shiny feel.

Gloss comes from earth minerals and resin. This coating is usually recyclable alongside papers. However, some magazines prefer a plastic called polyethylene (PE) to get their shine and smoothness. PE is not recyclable.

But can you tell which is which? By simply tearing the paper. If it rips easily, the coating contains natural additives and, thus, recyclable. The opposite is also true. Additionally, if it doesn’t remain crumpled when you ball it with your hands, it’s not recyclable.

Some magazines have recycling arrows on the back cover. The three chasing arrows symbolize that it is safe to recycle.

Is Magazine Paper Compostable?

Yes! Just like your regular matte paper in books, magazine paper is compostable. So long as it doesn’t have any PE coating, it will break down in your compost pile. But it may take longer than other papers because of the clay.

However, avoid composting glossy magazine papers. That’s because they have toxic inks that damage the soil and the critters that live in it. While there are safer inks that use soy-based products, not all magazines have made the switch. If you cannot see a SoySeal logo, don’t compost it.

Image Credit: crookoo, Pixabay

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Why Should You Recycle Magazines?

Why go through all the hassle of recycling your magazines when you can toss them in the trash? After all, they aren’t helpful anymore, at least to you. Here are four reasons that might convince you to recycle your old magazines:

1. Save Trees

According to WorldAtlas, it takes about 25 trees to make a single ton of paper. While it’s unclear how many magazines get printed yearly in the United States, we know it’s a lot. For example, in 2012, the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report found over 114 million copies in circulation from the top 25 magazines.

With only 33% of new pulp coming from recyclable materials, it’s safe to say that the rest of it came from felled trees. So, by recycling magazines, you indirectly save trees. In fact, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling paper saves:

  • 380 gallons of oil
  • 3-cubic yards of landfill space
  • 4,000 kilowatts of energy
  • 17 trees
  • 7,000 gallons of water

2. Reduces Pollution

Magazines and books are some of the heaviest paper products. According to the EPA, paper accounts for almost 50% of the weight of all collected recyclables in curbside programs. If you dump all those magazines in the trash, they’ll end up in landfills. As pointed out above, they contain harmful inks and coating that can damage the soil. The methane gas they would produce as they decompose is also a concern.

So, why not reduce pollution by recycling your magazines? At the same time, it keeps jobs for people in the recycling industry.

3. Provides Space

While individuals may not have too many old magazines, businesses and organizations can have mountains of them. For example, schools and doctor’s offices usually have a lot of old magazines lying around. They tend to eat up a lot of space that could hold other things.

4. You Can Make Money by Recycling Magazines

Yes, you can make some money by recycling magazines. While it’s not much, it’s still something. Check with your local recycling center and see if they pay for magazines. If they buy (which most likely they do), gather all your old magazines and take them there.

Image Credit: madison-inouye, Pexels

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How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?

First and foremost, never throw your old magazines in the trash can with your regular garbage, even if they’re in poor condition. Households can place them in a recycling bin for paper. If you don’t have a paper bin, put them in with your cardboard.

Businesses often have separate recycling bins for paper products. While you can dispose of them alongside newspapers and catalogs, do not mix them with plastic, metal, or glass. Even if those other materials are recyclable, they require a different process.

Image Credit: 652234, Pixabay

What Else Can You Do With Old Magazines?

Recycling papers is perhaps the last step in the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” process. Before you send them to the local center, think about ways you can reuse them. And believe it or not, there are many things you can do with old magazines.

Of course, you can throw them away, but that’s not very eco-friendly. And it’s a waste of perfectly good paper! While you may need a meter or two of creativity, here are some ideas on what to do with old magazines:

1. Make a Wreath

Magazines are ready supplies for home crafts. You can use them to make all sorts of things, including a wreath. Cut your desired shape from the magazine pages and glue or tape them onto a premade wreath frame. While a wreath is a popular idea for Christmas, you can make one for any season or holiday. That way, you get to impress your little ones while decluttering your home.

2. Donate Them

Libraries, schools, and senior centers always need reading materials. Before you turn them into home decor, you can give your old magazine more life by donating them.

Find out if libraries in your area have a magazine exchange program. They would still be happy to receive your donation if they don’t. Even in hospitals, shelters, prisons, hospice organizations, and military barracks, magazines can be a welcome distraction.

Just make sure to check if the organization accepts such donations. Also, in the case of military troops and schools, ensure you have all the specific guidelines for reading material.

3. Make a Collage

If you’re feeling creative, you can use old magazines to make a collage. It’s a perfect project for both kids and adults. All you need is some scissors, glue, and an open mind.

First, decide on a theme for your collage. It can be anything from nature to your favorite celebrity. Once you have it, start flipping through the pages of your magazine and look for images that fit.

Cut them out, arrange them on paper, and glue them down. You can add other things to your collage, like buttons, beads, or feathers. Be as creative as you want!

4. Sell Them

If you have a lot of old magazines, you can make money by selling them. The easiest way is to list them on an online marketplace like eBay. You can also sell them at a garage sale or local flea market. Group them by title or genre to get the best price and sell them as a set. You can also offer them for free on sites like Craigslist.

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Instead of stocking up on old magazines that need space or throwing them away, why not put them to good use? Put them up for recycling and protect the environment. You can also use them for various DIY projects or donate them to local organizations. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let those old magazines go to waste!

Featured Image Credit: kconcha, Pixabay


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