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How to recycle office paper and improve business sustainability

Commercial Waste Services Westminster
Commercial Waste Services Westminster

Since paper is one of the most common recycling streams found in offices, it is important to ensure that it is disposed of in the right way.

Paper is a valuable natural resource that can be recycled up to five times. In fact, recycling one tonne of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 4,000 kilowatts of energy. It takes 70% less energy and water to recycle paper than to create new paper.

However, on average, an office worker will use up to 45 sheets of paper per day, which can have a major effect on business sustainability. Luckily with the right recycling strategy, you can significantly decrease this number – even to the point of going completely paperless.

Related read: Everything you need to know about waste management sustainability 

How to recycle office paper

As stated in the Resources and Waste Strategy, it is a legal requirement to separate paper from other waste streams, including general waste. This guarantees that the paper will be recycled properly and to a high standard. If paper is thrown away as general waste or placed into mixed recycling, it will require extensive sorting after collection, which results in a significant loss of quality.

Which paper items can be recycled?

  • Office and writing paper
  • Envelopes
  • Folders
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Junk mail
  • Birthday/greeting cards
  • Notebooks, sticky notes and writing pads
  • Wrapping paper
  • Newspapers, leaflets and magazines
  • Shredded paper
  • Cardboard (see here for more on recycling cardboard)

To avoid loss in quality, the following are the steps you can take to get started with recycling paper:

Choose the right bin: We strongly recommend using one of our paper and cardboard recycling bins or a cardboard baler (balers compact boxes and paper into small cubes). If your business has limited space, a baler will ensure that operations will not be interrupted by an overflow of paper and card.

Sort your waste: Putting the wrong materials into your paper and cardboard recycling can cause entire truckloads to be rejected. It is costly and inefficient to dispose of everything through general waste. The most common contaminants found in paper and card recycling collections are black bags, polystyrene, plastic shrink wrap, food waste, food-soiled packaging (pizza/ sandwich/ take-away food boxes), wooden/plastic crates, sanitary/ hygiene waste (e.g. paper towels, napkins etc.), hazardous waste such as batteries and paint, bulky items and electrical appliances.

Commercial Waste Services collects your paper for recycling: All of the segregated paper and cardboard we collect is taken to DS Smith’s Kemsley Paper Mill where it is turned into new packaging material.


View our interactive recycling locations map


How do you dispose of confidential waste?

From bank statements and commercial contracts to personal data and private records, your business deals with highly confidential documents and items every day.

Confidential waste disposal can help you safely discard paper-based personal records in a secure, accredited, confidential shredding facility. With our secure shredding services, you receive a certificate of destruction (digital or paper-based upon customer request) which states that your documents have been successfully destroyed and disposed of in a compliant manner.

What can be disposed of as confidential waste?

  • Bank statements
  • Commercial contracts
  • Personal data
  • Private records
  • Documents, folders, files and data holders

See here for more on our confidential waste services.


How to reduce paper usage in your business

Now that you understand how to effectively recycle paper and the importance of keeping it separate from other waste streams, we have compiled a list of ways you can reduce how much office paper goes to waste and improve your business’ level of sustainability.

  • Buy recycled paper. Recycled paper has the same level of quality as ‘new’ paper.
  • Reduce the number of desk-side printers. Instead, have centralised office printers or multi-functional devices. This has been shown to reduce wasteful or unnecessary printing. Print double-sided (using both sides can reduce paper usage by 50%) or try going completely paperless; the rise in online collaboration tools has made this much easier.
  • Use thinner recycled paper with a weight of 80gsm. This means there is less material for each page. Reuse envelopes, folders, lever arches and scraps of paper (for notes or scribbles) whenever possible.
  • Use electronic or online communication. This includes email, calls and instant messaging instead of letters, invoices and statements. Verify if there are any office activities or processes that can be converted to online versions to reduce unnecessary printing.
  • Invest in digital technology. Use online platforms like Google Drive and DocuSign to share files and sign documents to prevent people from printing and wasting paper.
  • Stop waste coming in through the mail. Give yourself one month to send back everything you do not want to the original sender and ask to be taken off their list (this is similar to unsubscribing from an email list). To stop unsolicited mail, you can also contact Mailing Preference Service and Royal Mail.
  • Avoid having under desk bins. These promote poor recycling behaviour. All waste streams should be co-located at centralised recycling points around your premises. This helps avoid contamination or staff not recycling at all.
  • Use clear bin labelling. Recycling initiatives can succeed or fail as a result of the internal bins and signage provided. Use clear labelling or stickers on internal bins to differentiate general waste from the recyclable waste stream. You can download our posters and stickers to clearly label recycling points and internal bins.


Take a moment to download our recycling guide

Want to learn more about recycling and how your business can improve the way it handles its waste? We have created a guide that will explain how to identify your waste streams (including how to segregate, store and handle them), what recycling services are available to you and the importance of ensuring your waste collector offers you a flexible solution. Click on the button below to download our recycling guide, ‘The ultimate guide to real recycling for businesses in Westminster’.


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