Can you recycle paper – the official line

Filed in Blog by on June 26, 2010 13 Comments
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The official line from the Co-Op on recycling paper butter wrappers

The official line from the Co-Op on recycling paper butter wrappers

You might remember the butter wrappers I had ages ago from the Co-Op.

The packet said “Paper – not currently recycled”, which I thought was strange.

To my mind, paper is recyclable.I spoke to Gemma at Co-Op customer services who was unsure about it too. She suggested that there might be something added to the wrapper which meant it was not recyclable, such as foil.

Well there was certainly no foil in it as far as I could see. Gemma offered to contact the packaging manager and get back to me.

She called again within less than half an hour to tell me that the paper could not be recycled because of contamination from the butter. Apparently the paper recyclers can’t have butter in their system! But she assured me the paper could be reused as ‘buttered paper’.

“Buttered paper?” I asked! I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that.

“You know, for using in recipes?” she said.

“Buttered paper for recipes?” I asked again, not sure whether I was losing the plot, mishearing or just plain dumb. It all seemed obvious to her what she meant.

She went on to say that you could use buttered paper when baking cakes as a form of reuse. I guess she meant you could wipe the paper around the tin to grease it or use a bit of paper in place of greaseproof paper.

I then asked whether the paper could eventually be composted.

Silence followed after which she said “I’m not sure about compost” and she offered to call the packaging manager again.

When she called back a second time, which again, she did very quickly, Gemma told me that yes, the paper could be composted, but it needed to be a compost heap with a good fitting lid because “there is a risk that fatty foods can attract rats”.

So there we are; the official response from the CoOp – paper wrappers, such as the ones used by the Co-Op for their own label butter, can be composted after use, as long as your compost bin has a good fitting lid to keep rats out.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (13)

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  1. Just Gai says:

    I recycle butter wrappers (the paper variety, not the ones with a synthetic layer) by tearing them up and putting them in our brown kitchen waste bin. This is collected weekly by our council (Bristol) and processed (using heat, I believe) into compost. However I can’t see why they couldn’t be added to an ordinary compost bin, provided they were added to the sink when dishwashing to remove all traces of butter.

  2. Jane says:

    My mum would have used this paper to line baking tins. Now I’m dreaming of a lovely Dundee cake with slightly crunchy edges and almonds all around the top… and the smell – oh you just can’t beat home-made! Must go and have breakfast.

    A lot of instructions are not because you can’t do something but because there may be other implications if you aren’t careful – and they wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

  3. John Costigane says:

    Paper seems to be a problem for commingled collections with a paper producer recently complaining of poor quality material from mrfs. The difficulty lies in poor communications between householders, waste companies and paper makers, not forgetting the impacts of paper glue, inks and other non-paper content. Feedbacks would help householders provide a better recyclate and investigation of mrf performance would tighten their processes. Too much secrecy is delaying progress in this area.

  4. Poppy says:

    When we have empty butter wraps, they are washed and then put in with the paper for recycling or ripped up and put into the compost bin. We’ve not had any problems with this either in the form of rats or the council as yet!

  5. rats never complain, they just move on to better pastures…the era of ingenuity is back, and your zero waste blog is bringing it on with style… unfortunately the progress moves slowly in rural states, so i lag behind in actualizing our best wishes of completing the consumer cycle.
    we do not have paper recycling plants nearby, nor plastic hoarders on the horizon. not even a textile place. so it is up to the most enterprising to clamor for help in the big buffalo plains. a group of green teens has instituted paper bin collections in the schools, they take all paper-shiny-glossy-dull-waxy-newsy. then drive the tons of utter waste to a city gallons of gas away.
    i must follow that paper trail to see whatever happens to the pulp…will send update to team green british division asap.

  6. Alyson says:

    I’ve been using butter wrapping for lining cake tins for a few years now because I’m too stingy to buy greaseproof paper. I put the used wrappers in the compost bin and haven’t had a problem …yet. I cut them to shape for victoria sponges and the unused bits get washed and put in the paper recycling box.P.S. Had to empty the green wheelie bin after another 12 weeks and it included a laundry basket (broken) and some wrappings from our new greenhouse. The rest was mostly my daughter’s snacking. Even she was a bit shocked.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Just Gai: I agree with you and great that you have found a way to recycle them. I think the Co-Op were being extra cautious with their suggestions!

    @Jane: Now that Dundee cake sounds good 🙂 yes I find that advice these days comes with extra clauses; it’s madness sometimes.

    @John Costigane: Yes John, a good point. Mixed recycling can cause problems although WRAP still favour it because it increases recycling rates. It’s education all the way if we are to succeed at this …

    @Poppy: Good to hear you’ve found a solution, Poppy

    @nadine sellers: What an amazing sounding team of green teams, Nadine. I love what they are doing. They are looking for a solution. yes, follow the trail and report back 🙂

    @Alyson: Hi Alyson, what a great way to show your daughter the result of her snacking favourites! We did this too last year – emptied out a week’s waste to see who was responsible for what – it was quite an eye opener… 12 weeks though – that’s fantastic; well done you!

  8. Karen says:

    I collected all my butter papers so my Cornish friend could put them under her “real” cornish pasties when cooking them. Stops them sticking and good for the pastry.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: Ok, that’s it – I’m off to make pasties – they smell great when they are cooking and are one lovely comfort food.

  10. Tamara says:

    Yes, wipe the inside of the baking tin/roasting dish, or (my favorite) plonk on steamed new potatoes or beans.
    Growing up in post war we knew how to use stuff like this.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Tamara: Hello Tamara, lovely to see you; I love the work you are doing with Byron Katie (although it never fully gelled with me personally!) I think these reuse ideas are great; using up every last little bit. I’m now satisfied that cleaning the papers after use means they can be recycled or composted safely too; so butter can be a zero waste indulgence 🙂

  12. Mrs Green says:

    katie Byron even LOL!

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