Reusing / recycling paper ideas please!

Filed in Reuse by on November 3, 2011 27 Comments
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Help Jennifer reuse a pile of paper

Help Jennifer reuse a pile of paper

A couple of weeks ago, a new reader asked a question on our FAQs page.

Jennifer wrote “What can I do with a ton of paper that’s printed/written on one side?

Now I’ve finished college I have loads of it.  I’m planning to use the blank sides as scrap paper, but there’s only so much scrap paper I can use. Any ideas?”

To be honest I wasn’t really sure what to say. Here’s my answer:

“I would keep what you can use, and if it’s ok for other people to read what’s printed on the other side, someone from Freecycle might take the rest from you.

An artist might be able to use it to make notebooks for example. Otherwise you could print on the other side for non-important documents you print from your computer. “

I remember being in a similar situation to Jennifer a couple of years ago. In my local farm shop, instead of having a high tech till, every sale used to be written down by hand. I went in there one day and the lady was frantically searching for paper, so I said I’d take in a pile of scrap paper next time I went. She was overjoyed and so was I!

So over to you lovely people. A while ago your suggestions to Andrea for reusing vinyl banners was a resounding success. Let’s see if you can help Jennifer too.

What are your ideas for reusing a big pile of paper that has been printed on one side? Let’s up the stakes and assume recycling is not an option – let’s flex our brains and stretch our creativity by remembering that ‘reuse’ comes before recycling 😉

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 (27)

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  1. Well, you mentioned making an artist making notebooks but what I do is slice the pages in half (or tear them with a ruler) and then use a bull-clip (one or more) to keep the pages together and use as a notepad for groceries or by the phone.
    If you have children or know someone with children, in my experience, children are always glad of paper to draw on even if it does have writing on the back (assuming it’s suitable for strangers to read).
    If the printed side is all texty and full of suitably interesting looking information, the pages could be used as giftwrap with the text side outwards or alternatively as giftwrap with the white side outwards and add a coloured ribbon or sticker/name tag (assuming the gift recipient won’t mind their present having been wrapped in recycled paper)
    Good luck!

  2. Obviously, Scrap paper is the obvious one! You could also give it away to a local scrap store, school or playgroup to use in a similar way!

    As you said, an artist may be able to make notebooks, their own paper, paper sculptures…. the opportunities are endless.
    Kids would also have lots of fun collaging and crayoning on them, saving the need for expensive paper!!

    Househould uses are unlimited too; Keep a supply ripped into bits for kindling the fire, use it under the kitty litter tray, for cleaning window with the classic vinegar paper trick…

  3. mieke says:

    What I ussually do with this type of leftover paper, fold en cut it into 8 small peaces, and use it for small notes, like shopping lists, to do lists etc.

    Or put the paper trhough a paper shredderr and use the small strips as weigth/stuffing in a parcel , or storage of crockery.

  4. Jane says:

    A friend made and gave me a box she’d made out of cardboard and had sewn decoratively together for Christmas many years ago. I still use this for A4 sheets torn into 4. I have often thought that I would like to hook it onto the wall using a screw just like the telephone is hooked up on the wall. I would love to see them in recycled plastic or bent CDs.

    I don’t have as much waste paper any more and still use the backs of envelopes for lists.

  5. Jo says:

    Make papier mache art
    Make your own paper (tear, soak into mush, strain, dry)
    Make envelopes (if non-private printing) with print side in
    Line birdcages (ink side down)
    Shred and use as mouse, gerbil, hamster bedding
    Shred and use in making compost

  6. Sandy says:

    I make shoppng list, the menus for the week, the grandchildren use it for drawing or printing, shred for chicken bedding, I am sure there is othe uses, I would be interested to find other uses

  7. I had the same problem of loads of paper that had been printed on one side once I’d graduated from uni. At first I was just using it as scrap paper and it seemed to go on and on forever. Then I put it back into the printer so that all except the most important things would be printed on pre-used paper and I’ve just used my last piece! I feel a bit lost not having any scrap paper now but at least I have a feeling of completion.

  8. Jane says:

    @Kira Withers-Jones: So did I – particularly printing any recipes etc that I wanted to try. (Still have to be sensible and selective though!)

    The smart cardboard container for scrap paper received for Christmas mentioned above came READY FILLED with scrap paper.

  9. Julie Day says:

    I would have said scrap paper too. For printing and notepads.

  10. well, leave it to me to find myself at the bottom of the pile (of paper) again…
    all of the above: plus.

    curl each page into a flute..corner to corner, staple and add as many as you can put into a vase = paint individually or together for a lovely lasting modern bouquet…holiday colors or subtle decor..

    line path between garden rows..wet, cover with dirt or mulch–no weeds there next spring..

    shred and stack in cardboard boxes as attic insulation; light weight, long lasting and worth the effort in energy savings = good family fun…

    tear up and line the potato bin to avoid rotten root syndrome..

    wallpaper the restroom with the most unreadable out of context pages…or stick to closet liner for future brain teasers..ok, that one’s stretching the trees a bit far–make the most out of most…holiday fun to all.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Helen Strydom: Thanks for all your suggestions Helen; using a bulldog clip certainly make the job easier; I have one somewhere – I’ll have to find it and put to good use!

    @Michelle Morgan @ Eco-Centricity: Thanks Michelle; with a pet rabbit, some of ours gets shredded and used to line litter trays / the bedding etx

    @mieke: Using as packaging material is a great idea as this sort of thing can be expensive to buy

    @Jane: I’m an envelope user too. The box sounds beautiful – a real keep sake 🙂

    @Jo: Thank Jo – I’ve never tried making paper; would love to try it some day, set with seeds or petals to make it interesting and pretty

    @Sandy: thanks Sandy; we might be getting chickens; so I’ll keep your suggestion in mind

    @Kira Withers-Jones: Fantastic – well done you! Some of my scrap paper dates back to over 10 years ago; so I’m still getting through some – like you I put it face down in the printer for ‘non important’ printing

    @Julie Day: thanks Julie and congrats on your new book!

    @nadine sellers: You’re never bottom of the pile in my estimation (but then I might be rather biased 😉 )
    LOVING your fluted bouquet idea and I never knew about using for potatoes – thank you! And how could I resist decorating the downstairs bathroom; perhaps we could even cut paper into quarters for emergency toilet paper 😀

  12. @Mrs Green: mrs green, if i must cut paper into quarters for toilet paper use, it better be the soft type, as i am not a toilette martyr…spoiled or sensitive…i am..let’s hope it doesn’t come to that anytime soon.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: I’m no toilet paper martyr either my lovely; as this page will testify:

  14. I made a mirror frame as well as picture frames and paper bowl… It works great! It’s very creative and everybody always asks me where do I get those from… 🙂

    You can see them here:

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Mom Photographer: Hi 🙂 thanks for sharing your beautiful idea; they look fantastic – well done you!

  16. nelson says:

    se pueden hacer maceteros a presion…. luego estos se descomponen, integrandose al suelo, asi las raices no sufren daño…

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @nelson: Hi Nelson, welcome! I think you’re saying they can be made into biodegradable pots for the garden is that right? What a fantastic idea – thank you!

  18. Susan says:

    I hole-punch my scrap paper and put it in a binder that I take along to meetings. No need for notepads.

  19. Jen says:

    just put it in the compost.
    shred it and return it to the earth.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @Susan: brilliant Susan, so simple and effective 🙂

    @Jen: Composting is great as a last resort or now for us, we can shred it and put in the chicken house 😉

  21. Susan says:

    @ Jen: I think it’s better to put paper into the recycling bin than in the compost — this way it can be turned into new paper and saves resources that would otherwise have to be used to make that same paper. And judging from the fact that there are no fewer than four different companies vying for the used paper in my street (quiet and residential, no offices other than mine), it must be quite a valuable resource.

    (Also, not sure those dyes and bleaches used to make many types of paper white are really something you’d want in your soil.)

  22. VJ says:

    @Susan: I put scrumpled up paper, especially if it has confidential info on, into our compost bin. No shredder used, so no energy used either. I am not that convinced that sending paper to recyclers is that ‘green’ as any paper that already contains a certain proportion of recycled materials (not sure of the %) is not much further use, and all this paper has to be transported by road to a recyclers. Unless you know your recycler is local, then this paper is being trucked around the country using up fuel and adding to the traffic. Would be happy for someone to prove me wrong!

  23. Louise says:

    I use scrap paper for shopping lists – can never have enough!
    We also save them and staple them into notepads.


  24. Petra says:

    I caquired a binding machine and now make cute notebooks out of printed paper.
    Here´s how I do it:
    Fold all pages in half, printed side in.
    You are left with a stack of 1/2 A4 double pages.
    Bind them on the open side. This will make the pages turn nicely.
    I use magazine or calendar pages for covers and reuse the coil from previous notebooks.
    : )

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @Louise: I agree, being a list Queen, you can never have too much scrap paper 🙂

    @Petra: Brilliant Petra; thanks for sharing!

  26. Lauren says:

    I shred mine and use it as packaging / padding when I sells stuff on eBay.

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