Are Post-it Notes and Other Small Paper Adhesives Recyclable?

Are Post-it Notes and Other Small Paper Adhesives Recyclable?

Posted by Stik2it on 11th Aug 2017

Post-it Notes have become an indispensable office supply item. In fact, more than 50 billion Post-it Notes are sold worldwide each year. That represents a lot of paper waste that can be diverted from the landfill.

Offices that are starting paper recycling programs often ask: Are Post-it Notes Recyclable?

There isn’t one right answer. Every local paper recycling program has different rules for sticky notes and other self-adhesive paper. Some cannot accept Post-it Notes due to their pressure-sensitive adhesive backing, while others have the machines to process this type of paper.

Ultimately, it’s best to contact your local paper recycling program to determine if they’re accepted. There are a few rules that can help you determine if you can add used Post-it Notes to your office recycling bin.

Are Post-it Notes Acceptable for Recycling?

The self-adhesive of Post-its and other small papers, like envelopes or plastic bottle labels, is resistant to dissolving in water. In paper recycling facilities, typically, the recycled paper goes through a pulping process.

The paper is cut up and mixed with water and chemicals to break it down into a pulp. Additionally, this pulp must also go through a process to remove the ink from the pulped paper.

According to 3M, the inventor of the Post-it Note, research into the recycling process has shown that the adhesive used on sticky notes breaks down during the pulping and deinking. The Post-it Note adhesive isn’t as heavy-duty as glue, and therefore, the heat and chemicals used in the process prevent the adhesive from balling up and forming gunk that can slow or damage machines. The company claims that, therefore, Post-it Notes are 100 percent recyclable.

Yet, there are a few other indicators if they’re acceptable in your local paper recycling program. They include:

  • Is It Mixed Paper Recycling? – Mixed paper recycling refers to a program that accepts a range of papers, including junk mail, printer paper, newsprint, magazines and scrap paper. According to the EPA, most mixed paper recycling programs can accept Post-it Notes.
  • What Types of Sticky Notes? Notes with “super sticky” or heavy-duty adhesives are still pressure-sensitive. If the program accepts standard sticky notes, it will also accept notes with higher strength adhesives.
  • Did the Adhesive Come from the Post Office? Here’s an interesting fact: The U.S. Post Office accounts for a large number of moisture-free adhesives. In response, the Post Office developed a water soluble self-sticking adhesive that’s used in all its stamps, envelopes, and other peel-and-stick labels. Therefore, Post Office paper products are typically accepted into most programs.
  • What Type of Adhesive? Things like tapes, heavy-duty shipping labels, and stickers do not use the same dissolvable adhesive. Therefore, these types of paper products are much more likely to gunk up or degrade the paper recycling process. Masking tape, painter’s tape, and shipping labels are typically not accepted by most paper recyclers.

Solving the Are Post-it Notes Recyclable Question

Ultimately, the answer is: It depends. Many paper recyclers accept a mixed of paper products, and often, sticky notes are included in that list of acceptable materials.

Yet, just because the recycler accepts paper, doesn’t mean Post-it Notes make the cut. So always check with your recycling program; all are required to provide a list of their accepted materials.

If you’re unsure, check with the recycler, because including the wrong types of materials can actually increase recycling costs, which takes away from the success of the recycling program.