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Because You Asked

Is There a Minimum Size for Paper to Be Recycled?

By Recyclebank |

Here’s how to handle scraps and fragments of paper.

Dear Recyclebank,

Is there a minimum size for paper to be recycled? And can I recycle the paper bags sugar and flour come in? Can they be recycled with newspaper?

-Leslie H.


Dear Leslie,

When it comes to putting paper in your recycling bin, there generally isn’t a minimum required size for the paper. However, shredded or small pieces of paper may not be recyclable because the paper fibers might be too short to be made into new products. Because of this, some municipalities and waste haulers will not accept shredded paper — always check first. Paper fibers get shorter every time the paper is shredded, torn, or recycled. Eventually, the fibers get too short to be usable in new products, even for low-grade paper like newsprint. Before you put shredded or small pieces of paper in your recycling bin, consider reusing it or composting it instead.

Your soup can labels and the paper bags for sugar and flour are all perfectly recyclable. Just make sure the paper is dry and clean, without food contamination. If it is, you can recycle it along with other paper recyclables like newspaper.

Environmental Protection Agency


Do you reuse, recycle, or compost your shredded paper? Share in the comments below!

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  • joanna l. 4 days ago
    Small pieces of paper or torn paper can be used for crafting (free art supplies!)
  • Martha R. 5 days ago
    After two years I'm back but I don't see too much.
  • Chris J. 11 days ago
    I think a lot of people forget that recycling needs to be both efficient and profitable for it to work...and for communities to keep supporting it. Most recycling facilities (especially when it comes to single-stream recycling) still have a "human component" of workers who separate materials into their various categories. That being said, the more work you create for the sorters, the less profitable the whole operation becomes. So it's really not a good idea to load up your recycling bin with a bunch of small or unbundled paper items. I would encourage everyone to please think proactively about the size and quality of the items that you put in your recycling bin. The same goes for removing any leftover food from jars as well as separating lids from their containers if they are made of different materials.
    • VICKI R. 10 days ago
      I agree with you 100% . I am always making sure things are clean and dry. I am from CA where everything had to be separated to be recycled and so when I move to AZ a very long time ago I couldn't figure out why I only had one recycle container. I learn about the single-stream recycling and knew that it wasn't as profitable as the other due to the human factor. And that is the reason that our county stopped collecting it because it just wasn't cost efficient any longer. But they didn't take in to consideration how it help the environment, and didn't care apparently.
    • John D. 10 days ago
      I dunno, I think most facilities have machinery that sorts the majority of the stuff out.
    • Chris J. 10 days ago
      Of course. I'm aware that most facilities have automated sorting systems that will recognize and sort known items such as glass bottles or aluminum cans. But the machinery is not perfect and humans still have to catch what the machines miss. Either way, the point I was trying to make is that adding a bunch of tiny scraps of paper is not really contributing to the efficiency of recycling in general. If you insist on recycling small pieces of paper, consider bundling them together so the recycling facility does not have to waste the resources (AI or human) dealing with it. People need to use their brains and think about what they are throwing in their recycling bins--they are not garbage cans.
  • John D. 12 days ago
    I thought I read that some places tale it if in a paper bag. As usual, check with your hauler.
  • VICKI R. 12 days ago
    People do not comment any longer since they stopped posting information as much. I still come on here everyday to learn new things, but it just doesn't have the benefits it used to. (like entering sweepstakes to win gift cards) And even though the county I live in doesn't recycle any longer I still separate and do my best to fine places to take it to recycle.
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