Environment Recycling & Waste Are Magazines Recyclable? Plus, how to give glossy pages a second life By Olivia Young Olivia Young Twitter Writer Ohio University Olivia Young is a writer, fact checker, and green living expert passionate about tiny living, climate advocacy, and all things nature. She holds a degree in Journalism from Ohio University. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 8, 2021 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Environment Plastics Zero Waste In This Article Expand How to Tell If Your Magazine Is Recyclable How to Recycle Magazines Is Magazine Paper Compostable? Ways to Reuse Magazines Frequently Asked Questions Their glossy paper is a common cause of confusion, but the answer is yes, magazines can be recycled (as long as they are not PE-coated). Magazines are sorted with other paper products, then pulped and de-inked in a series of chemical processes. Cleaned paper pulp is often combined with virgin wood fibers to create new products, such as egg cartons, padded envelopes, cat litter, and building insulation. Ready to get started? Here's how to recycle—and upcycle—old magazines. How to Tell If Your Magazine Is Recyclable The glossy paper of most magazines is made with earth-derived minerals and resins that soak into the gaps of the paper fibers and create a smooth, polished coating. This coating is perfectly fine to recycle alongside matte paper products. However, a small portion of magazines get their shine from a type of plastic called polyethylene (PE), which is not recyclable. You can easily decipher whether your glossy paper has been coated in natural additives or plastic by trying to tear it. If it rips easily, it's naturally coated and, thus, recyclable. If it's difficult to tear or doesn't stay crumpled when you ball it up in your palm, it's likely coated in plastic and therefore can't be recycled. Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Still stumped? Try soaking a page from the magazine in water for a couple of hours. If it degrades, it can be recycled; if it doesn't degrade, it has to be trashed. How to Recycle Magazines First, ensure the magazine or catalog is free of plastic wrapping and any fluid cosmetic samples, and try to remove as many stickers as you can. (It's OK if there is a little tape or a few stickers on the magazine, as those will be filtered out during the recycling process.) Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Then, throw the magazines into your paper or mixed pile and send them away with your regular curbside recycling. At the recycling plant, paper is sorted by type, broken down into fibers, stripped of its coating, screened, de-inked, thickened, and brightened. Finally, the pulp is dried, combined with virgin wood fiber, pressed, and fashioned into various products. Is Magazine Paper Compostable? Recyclable magazines can also be composted. So long as the paper isn't coated in plastic, it will break down in a home compost like regular, matte paper, although it might take a little longer. You can speed up the composting process by shredding the magazine pages first. Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Some people avoid composting glossy paper because of the damage toxic inks can cause to soil and critters. While it's true that petroleum-based inks are harmful to the environment, they have largely been replaced by compostable, vegetable-based inks like soy ink. If you're unsure about whether the ink on your magazine is compost-friendly, look for the SoySeal, the American Soybean Association's official certification. Ways to Reuse Magazines Recycle is the final step in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle process. Before you recycle your magazines, try to find ways to reuse them. And while you're at it, consider switching to digital subscriptions to reduce your future consumption of paper magazines. Here are some ways to extend the usable life of magazines before they go into the blue bin. Donate Magazines Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Give your magazines more life before they're turned into home decor or recycled into insulation and kitty litter by donating them to your local library, hospitals and doctors' offices, schools, and nursing homes. Find out whether military troops, hospice organizations, shelters, prisons, literacy groups, and charities in your area would accept magazine donations. Make sure the organization takes magazine donations beforehand and check whether there are specific guidelines for reading material, as would be the case for schools and military troops. National organizations that accept magazine donations include Books for Soldiers, Magazine Harvest, MagLiteracy, and US Modernist (architecture and design magazines only). Turn Magazines Into Art Treehugger / Sanja Kostic From origami garland and accordion Christmas trees to patchwork placemats and wallpaper, Pinterest is rife with home decorating ideas using old magazines. Beyond the typical decoupage, their colorful, glossy pages can be turned into beads for bracelets or quirky doorway curtains, rolled up and glued together for limited-use dishes, crimped into pinwheels for wall art and clocks, and beyond. Use Magazines Around the House Treehugger / Sanja Kostic If not as decoration, magazines can be used around the house as shelf and drawer lining or boot shape keepers. Skip the plastic litter box liners and use the glossy pages of a catalog or tabloid instead. You can even roll magazine paper up and plant seedlings in them instead of using plastic trays. Wrap Gifts With Magazines Treehugger / Sanja Kostic Magazine paper can take the place of bubble wrap and Styrofoam packing peanuts (which will be some of the last things on Earth to decompose), tissue, and wrapping paper (neither of which are recyclable), and other packaging items. With a little methodical folding, the glossy pages can even be made into decorative envelopes. You can shred them and use the multicolored paper ribbons in gift boxes or to cushion packages you're sending in the mail. Magazine Production and Waste by the Numbers The 100 most-read magazines in the U.S. had a combined circulation of 162.4 million in 2020. Only 20% of consumer print magazines in the U.S. are recycled. The U.S. magazine industry is responsible for the demise of 35 million trees annually. You can reduce the impact by switching to a digital subscription. Frequently Asked Questions Can you put magazines in the recycle bin? In most cases, you can put magazines straight into your curbside recycling bin. That said, it's always best to check the rules for recycling in your area. Where can you recycle old magazines? You can recycle old magazines through your local recycling service or by donating them to organizations like Books for Soldiers, Magazine Harvest, MagLiteracy, and US Modernist. How should you dispose of PE-coated magazine paper? Recycling polyethylene-coated paper is possible, but only through specialist recycling facilities. Georgia-Pacific paper mills in Wisconsin and Oklahoma accept PE-coated magazine paper and paper cups. View Article Sources "Soy Ink Seal." American Soybean Association. "Polystyrene & Food Packaging." Massachusetts Sierra Club.