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Can You Recycle Tissue Paper? How It Is Properly Disposed

tissue paper

With the holiday season fast approaching, shoppers all over America and the world are wrapping gifts to give their friends, family, and loved ones. When they do, millions will use tissue paper inside their gift boxes. Besides wrapping paper, tissue paper is the most commonly used paper product when packaging gifts. It comes in a rainbow of beautiful colors for any holiday or occasion, and it’s lightweight, protects the gift, and can be used in decorative ways. Plus, since it’s made from trees and is 100% natural, you can recycle tissue paper easily. Or can you?

The sad truth is that while tissue paper is biodegradable and recyclable, recycling it isn’t as easy as most people think it is. Can you recycle tissue paper? Technically, yes, but you cannot in many towns and cities in the United States. That’s because, to recycle tissue paper, a recycling plant needs expensive equipment. Recycling tissue paper is also complex and time-consuming, even with the right equipment. Maybe the worst part, at least from the perspective of the recycling plant, is that recycling tissue paper isn’t profitable. That’s why many recycling plants refuse to accept it.

Knowing that you can’t easily recycle tissue paper, you might wonder what other methods you can use to dispose of it properly. There are several, which are fully explained below. Plus, you’ll find some tissue paper alternatives that are just as pretty but easier to recycle. Read on to discover them all and lower your carbon footprint for the holidays!

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What Is Tissue Paper, and How Is It Made?

Hand Holding a Shopping Bag with Tissue Paper Inside
Image By: Leeloo Thefirst, Pexels

To understand why it’s difficult, if not impossible, to recycle tissue paper, it helps to know what it’s made of. The main ingredient in tissue paper is recycled wood pulp, mainly from newspapers and other recyclable paper products. When ready, the paper pulp is sprayed onto drying screens and becomes rough paper once again, which is then processed even further to make the delicate tissue paper you know and love.

By the time it reaches your hands, the tissue paper you’re using to wrap a gift has already been recycled at least once, if not several times. That’s a problem because the more paper is recycled, the less recyclable it becomes. At some point, the recycled paper becomes unrecyclable, which is often the case with tissue paper. Also, as pointed out earlier, the equipment and process to recycle tissue paper are prohibitively expensive and unprofitable.

Do Some Recycling Plants Recycle Tissue Paper?

Some recycling plants around the United States can recycle tissue paper. However, they are few and far between, so finding one close to where you live might be challenging. If you have a lot of tissue paper to recycle, it might be worth calling your local recycling plant and inquiring about their tissue paper policies. In most cases, however, you’ll need another option to recycle your tissue paper because your local recycling plant won’t do it.

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4 Ways Dispose of Tissue Paper

There are several methods you can use to dispose of tissue paper. Some are more ecologically friendly than others, which makes choosing the right one for your situation essential.

1. Composting Your Tissue Paper at Home

If you compost your biodegradable trash, adding your tissue paper to the pile might be a good idea. Because it’s made from wood pulp and is super thin, tissue paper will break down and biodegrade nicely. This method has the bonus of keeping tissue paper out of your local landfill.

However, since many brands of tissue paper are manufactured using toxic dyes, putting it in your compost bin might not be a good choice. Your safest bet is to check the packaging or call the manufacturer and ask. However, if it’s colored tissue paper, it’s most likely toxic and shouldn’t be composted.

2. Repurpose your Tissue Paper

Shopping Bags With Tissue Paper
Image Credit: Leeloo Thefirst, Pexels

If you’re the type who loves to repurpose gift boxes and wrapping paper, why not repurpose your tissue paper, too? The thing about tissue paper is that, even when crinkled, it still looks pretty and does a fine job protecting gifts and making packages more attractive. You can also repurpose tissue paper as a liner in dresser drawers or a separator between delicate items. By repurposing tissue paper, you keep it out of your local landfill and save money on packaging your next gifts!

3. Give Your Tissue Paper to a Local School

If you have tons of tissue paper and don’t know what to do with it, consider donating it to a local school. Schools are always looking for free items they can use for arts and crafts, and tissue paper is a good one!

4. Throw your Tissue Paper Away with your Other Trash

If you don’t need it, don’t want it, and can’t recycle it, the only option left is to toss your tissue paper in with your regular trash and send it off to your local landfill. While it’s the last resort, tossing your tissue paper in the regular trash might be your only option.

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Should You Burn Your Tissue Paper in the Fireplace?

burning woods in a fireplace
Image Credit: JerzyGorecki, Pixabay

Many American families with fireplaces have an annual tradition: burning the holiday packaging in their fireplace. Burning tissue paper and wrapping paper can release toxic fumes, which, if they come back into your home, could be a problem.

Tissue paper is also very lightweight, and if a burning piece of it were to escape from your chimney, it could start a fire on your roof or yard. Lastly, because it’s paper and has flammable inks, tissue paper burns fast and burns very hot. When it does, the chance that built-up creosote in your chimney catches on fire rises significantly. In other words, burning tissue paper (and wrapping paper), while it might seem like a fun idea, can be dangerous.

What Are Some Alternatives to Tissue Paper?

If you want to give gifts wrapped with alternatives to tissue paper, you can examine our choices below.

1. The Newspaper Comics Section

Families have been using the “Sunday funnies” to wrap Christmas gifts since full-color comics started being printed. In the good old days of Sunday comics, there was an entire pull-out section, usually three to four full newspaper pages, with comics published from top to bottom. However, with newspapers becoming scarcer, the comics section has shrunk considerably and even disappeared from some newspapers.

2. National Geographic Maps

For decades the venerable magazine of the natural world, National Geographic, has been printing and giving away maps in one or two of their magazines per year. Usually, these maps are full-color, and some are genuinely attractive, featuring maps of the sea, maps of other planets, and maps that use color coding to tell a story. All these materials would make a fantastic and colorful alternative to tissue paper. Even better, after all the holiday unwrapping, you could use the maps to hang on a wall or learn something new about the world.

3. Old Sheet Music

If you’re wrapping a gift for the music lover in your family, old sheet music would be a real treat for them! Sheet music doesn’t come in large sheets, so it would only be good for smaller gifts.

4. Tin Foil

Tin foil crinkled and used in a gift package like tissue paper can be a shiny alternative. It folds easily, wraps around things with no problem, and can be molded to wrap around any type or size gift. Remember to recycle the aluminum after the holidays.

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, recycling tissue paper isn’t easy, and, in many cases, it’s impossible. Sometimes the only alternative you have is to throw it away with your regular household garbage. If you’re lucky, your local recycling plant will recycle your tissue paper, but, as we’ve seen today, most won’t do it for various reasons.

The best way to recycle tissue paper, if it’s clean, is to use it again to wrap other presents next year. That way, it stays out of your local landfill. Also, if it’s not colored tissue paper, composting it will add some fiber to your compost. To avoid tissue paper recycling problems, you can use one of the alternatives listed above. Whatever you decide, here’s hoping your holiday packages, boxes, and bags look fabulous this season, and best of luck recycling all that packaging once the holidays are over.

Featured Image Credit: bluebudgie, Pixabay


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