Can You Recycle Paper With Ink on It? (Paper Recycling Guide)

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

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Recycling paper saves natural resources and energy and limits environmental consequences, like increased greenhouse gas emissions and overloaded landfills.

So, it is, without a doubt, a good thing to do. But can you recycle paper with ink on it?

The short answer is YES! The recycling process includes a step for extracting the pigment. However, some types of paper, regardless of whether they are inked, cannot be recycled.

For all of the details, keep reading.

Can Paper With Ink Be Recycled? Which Type of Paper is Recyclable?

1. Paper that can be recycled

Paper that has been…
Inked by markers Recyclable Ink is removable in the recycling process
Inked by highlighters Recyclable Ink is removable in the recycling process
Inked by pencils Recyclable Ink is removable in the recycling process

2. Paper that cannot be recycled

Paper that has been…
Inked by crayons Non-recyclable Consists of contaminants that are irreversible
Inked by paint Non-recyclable Wet paper can obstruct recycling machines and has risks of contamination.

3. Other types of paper that cannot be recycled

Sticky paper or stickers These have adhesives, which are not recyclable.
Plastic-coated or laminated paper You cannot split the plastic coating or laminated layer from the paper. So, recycling this type of paper is tricky.
Greasy paper The grease and oil will cling to the fibers of the paper, so recycling factories may reject them. It’s easier to process clean paper, which has less contamination.
Waxed paper Water has to break down the fibers of the paper during the recycling process. But the wax will prevent this from happening, making it non-recyclable.
Thermal paper This type of paper holds a chemical that cannot be easily removed during recycling. Therefore, it is often rejected by paper recycling sites.

Still, you can find use for these items if waste facilities reject them:


  • Sticky Paper or Stickers: You can use them as scrap paper, ink test paper, origami paper, etc.
  • Plastic-Coated or Laminated Paper: You can turn it into a dry erase marker board, coaster, or page sleeve.
  • Greasy Paper: You can repurpose it for cleaning up shards, wrapping and discarding food that has spoiled, etc.
  • Waxed Paper: You can reuse it if it is not too dirty. Repurpose it for lubricating tools and zippers, for starting fires, and for dealing with limescale spots.
  • Thermal Paper: You can use it as scrap paper for writing.

Tips to Reduce the Use of Non-recyclable Paper

Use markers, highlighters, and pencils


You can recycle paper with writing on it if you used a marker, highlighter, or pencil. However, paper with crayon on it cannot be reprocessed. You also cannot recycle paper with paint on it.

So, if you want to cut down the use of non-recyclable paper, an easy thing you can do is ditch the crayons and paints.

Then, you will only have paper with pencil lead on it or with highlighter on it, which can be treated for reuse.

Avoid coating your paper with plastic, grease, and wax


Plastic-coated, greasy, and waxed paper cannot be recycled. Therefore, you must avoid using these if you want to minimize your waste. Stock your house, office, or class with types of papers that are recyclable. This will make it simpler for you when it comes to organizing your garbage cans.

How Do You Remove Ink From Recycling Paper?

Ink can be removed from paper during the recycling process in two ways:

  • Through flotation de-inking and wash de-inking
  • Through a laser process

1. Flotation De-Inking & Wash De-Inking

Without delving deep into all the scientific mechanisms, this process separates ink from paper by having it attach to air bubbles that float to the surface and are taken away as froth. Therefore, this process is also referred to as Froth Flotation.

Flotation de-inking works for ink particles from 10 µm. However, those smaller than that rely on the wash de-inking process. Here, the ink is washed off by added dispersants.

2. Laser Process

With this method, a laser projector shoots at the surface of a piece of paper to get rid of ink on it. Essentially, what happens is the laser light vaporizes the ink. It takes a few minutes to get the job done and will require additional safety wear.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is paper recycled into?

Paper can be recycled into a number of things, such as:


  • Tissues
  • Napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Office paper
  • Cardboard
  • Paperboard

You can also find recycled paper in:


  • Paper cups, plates, bowls
  • Egg cartons
  • Coffee filters
  • Kitty litter
  • Disposable diapers
  • Newspapers and magazines

With increasingly advanced technology, recycled paper can also be turned into materials that are used for manufacturing and construction. Examples include:

  • Papercrete
  • Plasterboards
  • Paper composites

How many times can paper be recycled?

Paper consists of fibers, which are shortened every time recycling occurs. So, there is a cap on the number of times paper can be recycled. The range is between 5 and 7 times.

Where can I take my paper for recycling?


Your two options are:

  • Curbside recycling posts
  • School recycling collection posts

You can do a quick search online for the nearest location, try this locator website, or reach out to your local waste department for a specific address.

What are the benefits of recycling paper to the environment?

There are good reasons why people advocate for recycling paper. Some of the key environmental benefits include:

  • Lessening greenhouse gas emissions, which aggravate climate change
  • Preventing the supply of fiber from running out too quickly
  • Saving space in landfills and reducing the amount of waste that needs processing
  • Decreasing consumption of water and energy

Is printer paper recyclable? Can you recycle copy paper?

Yes. You can recycle printer paper. The ink will be removed in the recycling process, whether you recycle paper that has been written on or one that has been colored on.

Just avoid coating it with plastic or laminating it.

Is there any way to reuse paper that you already printed on?

There are so many ways you can reuse paper that has been printed on.

Here are some of the most common ideas:

  • Using it as test paper for printers
  • Using it as scrap paper
  • Using it to line litter boxes
  • Using it for cleaning (windows, barbeque grills, ovens, etc.)
  • Using it to kill weed in the garden
  • Using it to start a bonfire or campfire
  • Using it to line shelves, cabinets, the vegetable section of the fridge
  • Using it to wrap and store fruits and vegetables
  • Using it to deodorize shoes and get rid of musty smells

You can also reuse printed paper for creative art projects, like:

  • Paper mache
  • Paper wreaths
  • Origami
  • Paper dolls
  • Mixed media


Now, you know the complete answer to, “Can you recycle paper with ink on it?” In general, the answer is yes. Non-recyclable paper can be reused for other purposes to minimize our carbon footprint.

Hopefully, this has been informative and interesting. If you have any additional questions on the topic or thoughts you would like to share, feel free to reach out to us in the comments below. We are always excited to hear from our readers.

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