Alternatives to non-recyclable paper products

At Shred Station, we recycle 100% of the paper we shred at UK mills. In 2022, this meant that 60,000 tonnes of old shredded paperwork found a new purpose in the form of toilet tissues, feminine hygiene products, and much more.

We can also shred non-recyclable paperwork like receipts, carbon copies and embellished gift wraps. Nothing we shred goes to landfill, however, we always encourage our customers to use recyclable alternatives to non-recyclable paper products. Doing so allows us to reuse even more of the materials we shred.

We recommend choosing alternatives to non-recyclable paper products for non-confidential materials you dispose of at home, and using a Zero to Landfill shredding service for anything confidential you need to destroy.

Image of receipt paper, greaseproof paper, and tracing paper.

Alternatives to receipt paper

If you’re a business that still prints receipts, you may have noticed that your receipt printer doesn’t require ink cartridges. This is because most receipt paper is made from non-recyclable thermal paper that reacts with heat to display the text required. While this will save your business the cost of ink cartridges, it isn’t very environmentally friendly. The most obvious alternative is to use e-receipts. Some customers may be suspicious of this because, unfortunately, many companies use this to expand email marketing lists. We advise against using receipt email addresses for marketing purposes as it can put customers off accepting e-receipts from other businesses, not just yours. The other alternative is to use an inkjet printer with recycled non-thermal receipt paper, and only print a receipt when a customer requests one.

Alternatives to greaseproof baking paper/wax paper/parchment paper

Most parchment paper isn’t recyclable or compostable as it is coated with a thin layer of silicone or wax. However, many alternatives to baking paper can prevent non-recyclable waste. The best alternative is aluminium foil. Aluminium foil can be shaped and greased to prevent sticking. It is also infinitely recyclable. Once used, flatten it down, give it a good wash and rinse, then pop it into your recycling bin. You could also use cooking spray or reusable food-grade silicone baking mats. For things like muffins, you can use silicone muffin cases or even biodegradable ones for composting.

Alternatives to drafting film

Drafting film isn’t technically paper-based (it is made from polyester film), but it is considered a synthetic paper. Similar to tracing paper, drafting film is translucent and used for things like technical and architectural drawings. Tracing paper is a good alternative to drafting film as it can be composted and recycled. The drawbacks of tracing paper are that it isn’t as sturdy and tears easily.

An alternative method entirely would be to use computer programs for digital drawings. With any good design program, you can create multiple layers, easily rotate and adjust lines, scale-up and scale-down drawings, and even have others add their comments or feedback to drawings with the click of a few buttons. If you aren’t comfortable using one of these programs, most software providers can give you a free trial. There are also thousands of online tutorials available to get you started. If you’re using drafting film purely for tracing purposes and tracing paper isn’t an option, you could also use a lightbox. With a lightbox, or any transparent or translucent surface lit from behind, you can easily trace images onto other pieces of recyclable paper.

Image of carbon paper, wrapping paper and watercolour paper.

Alternatives to carbon paper

An article by The New York Times described using carbon paper today as similar to “using a mortar and pestle instead of a food processor, or pounding your laundry against a rock instead of using a washing machine”. An alternative to using carbon paper, for most use cases, is to use a scanner to digitise files or use a photocopier for duplicating physical prints. However, there are still industries where carbon paper is used every day. For example, many tattoo artists will print designs onto thermographic transfer paper or carbon paper as an easy way to transfer designs onto the skin. In situations like this, unfortunately, there isn’t really an alternative. Some non-thermal carbon papers are compostable as an end-of-life alternative to landfill. However, this is something you would need to check with each brand.

Some artists also prefer to shred their designs after use so they can’t be stolen or plagiarised. If this is a service you need, please get in touch!

Alternatives to embellished or glittery gift wrap

When doing something like showing your appreciation for someone in the form of a gift, it’s understandable that you’d want the recipient to receive something beautifully wrapped or embellished. However, once you start adding foils or glitters to wrapping paper, it becomes unrecyclable. Fortunately, there are many recyclable and aesthetically pleasing alternatives to glittery gift wraps.

Images of kraft paper wrapping and furoshiki

One example is kraft paper. Kraft paper is 100% recyclable, has a lovely texture and is unbleached, meaning it retains its warm brown colour. To make kraft-wrapped items stand out even more, you can decorate parcels with items like paper twines, dried flowers, or other paper or compostable embellishments. Instead of using traditional plastic sticky tape, there are dozens of eco-friendly tapes available such as washi tape. Washi tape, as one example, is made from rice paper, is compostable, and comes in countless different eye-catching designs.

Another great alternative to non-recyclable gift wrap is furoshiki. Furoshiki are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths that can be reused year after year. Wrapping with furoshiki also requires no tape. Instead, there are many different wrapping methods and knots to wrap items of any shape securely. As well as reducing gift-wrapping waste, furoshiki looks beautiful. Traditionally, furoshiki is returned to the gift giver, so it is well worth the investment if you will reuse the cloths.

Here are some frequently asked questions we receive on what types of paper can and cannot be recycled:

Can you recycle coloured paper or paper with ink on it?

Yes, shredding and recycling is the ideal disposal method for printed documents. However, dyed paper or paper with ink on it should not be composted. This is because non-natural dyes contain metals and other chemicals that could be harmful in large quantities to wildlife or if added to vegetable patches.

Can you recycle envelopes with windows?

Yes! Shred Station can accept these envelopes and so can most local councils.

Can you recycle books and magazines?

Magazines can be recycled by us and by your local council. Shred Station can also accept both paperback and hardcover books, but this might be a little more complicated for your household recycling services. This is because books are often bound with string and glue, making them more difficult to recycle. For that reason, your kerbside recycler probably won’t accept books. However, you can usually take them to your local recycling centre, donate them, shred and recycle them with us, or sell them to companies like Ziffit which has a zero-to-landfill policy and is a certified B Corp.

Can you recycle paper with staples, paperclips, or plastic wallets?

Your kerbside recycling will usually accept staples and paperclips, but not plastic wallets. However, we strongly advise against putting any kind of confidential paperwork or documents containing personal information outside in an unlocked bin. A reputable shredding service provider should accept plastic wallets, staples, paperclips, and even things like lever-arch files and bulldog clips. Our industrial shredding machines can handle these items with ease and your information will be secure at every step of the process.

Can you recycle paper that has been painted on or coloured with crayons?

No, not in your domestic recycling bins. Unfortunately, even water-based paint can damage the paper fibres. Oil-based paint and crayons will create a layer of oil or wax on the surface of the paper which cannot be removed by kerbside recyclers. If you are keen to dispose of artwork without contributing to landfill, Shred Station can shred these materials and use Energy from Waste to incinerate paintings or wax-covered paper. The incineration process generates energy for the National Grid.

Alternatively, why not keep your paintings and drawings in a scrapbook or donate them to a local charity shop? Even if you don’t think your artwork is a masterpiece, someone somewhere will.

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