Can I recycle sticky notes?
-Norman, Hollywood, FL
That’s a great question! One of the reasons recycling can be confusing is because most often the answer to questions like, “Can I recycle _____?” is, “It depends.”. And that’s true in the case of sticky notes as well.
Sticky notes are one of the success stories of our time because they are so easy to use. Based on the technique referred to as pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSA), aka "self-adhesives", this technology has created products that cover more than just the standard square-shaped pastel-colored pieces of paper. It also usually includes a variety of peel-and-stick labels, stamps, some variety of tape, and more.
The good news is that, based on results of various tests conducted by manufacturers like 3M, sticky notes technically CAN be recycled. This is possible if the adhesive (the chemical that makes the sticky note sticky) can be removed in the paper de-inking process (part of the industrial process of making collected recyclable paper actually recycled.)
According to the EPA, recycling programs that take mixed paper usually accept sticky notes, because these programs have equipment capable of removing the adhesive chemical. But if they don’t have the right equipment, they might not be able to accept sticky notes for recycling — so while some cities (like NYC) do allow for sticky note recycling, many recyclers in California do not allow sticky notes to be recycled. It’s always best to check with your local recycling representatives or website to make sure sticky notes (and all their variations) are accepted for recycling.
An interesting and related fact is that in response to concerns about the recyclability of such adhesives, the United States Postal Services (USPS) successfully developed a recycling-compatible adhesive, which is now used exclusively in all their stamps.