By Marina Hanes on September 19, 2011

With uncertainty about adhesives and dyes, is it possible to recycle those little pieces of paper?

Recycling sticky notesSticky notes are a staple in the office for two reasons. First, they’re perfect for to-do lists, reminders and jotting down other information. Second, they come in so many colors and can be stuck practically anywhere, so it’s impossible not to become obsessed with this handy office supply. However, when you’re done using the front and back sides, is it possible to recycle them?

Companies like 3M that manufacturer sticky notes use a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA), which makes these notes easy to use — simply peel and stick. No water or moisture of any kind is required to activate the self-adhesive. Unfortunately, the PSA can pose a recycling problem for these small pieces of paper.

Because self-adhesives are designed to not dissolve in water, some recycling systems refuse to handle these materials, as the glue breaks down into smaller pieces and can cause damage to the papermaking equipment and even the paper products.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling programs that take mixed paper are usually accepting of sticky notes, too. These programs are capable of removing the self-adhesive, but it’s best to ask your local recycling service just to be sure. 3M sticky notes have been through rigorous recycling trials, and it has been determined that this product is easily recycled — the paper de-inking process removes the self-adhesive and even any dyes.

So, breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you don’t have to ditch this noteworthy paper. Either purchase sticky notes made with recycling in mind, or do your homework to ensure your local recycling service accepts mixed paper. Don’t forget to mention sticky notes specifically!

About the author

Marina Hanes is a writer and editor based in Youngstown, OH. In addition to website content writing experience, she acquired researching and interviewing skills while working in a law office and a trauma research department.

Marina's grandfather, who was a forester, sparked her interest in sustainability. In 2008, she received a degree in professional writing and editing from Youngstown State University. In her spare time, she dabbles in fiction and children’s book writing, and her hobbies include yoga, skiing, kayaking and reading. Living with three cats and three dogs only makes life more fulfilling.

Marina owns Cat’s Eye Editing, LLC, and a listing of her published works can be found at CatsEyeEditing.com.


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