Can You Recycle Magazines? (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Whether it’s your favorite sports magazine or that reoccurring unwanted catalog that department stores send you every month, everyone gets magazines in the mail. 

While your first inclination may be to toss that catalog or magazine in the trash once you are done with it, you may pause to think is it recyclable? Continue reading to find out this answer and more!

Can You Recycle Magazines?

Despite their glossy exterior, magazines are recyclable once you remove any contaminants such as stickers, plastic, and product samples from the magazine. Staples can remain, therefore, properly prepared magazines can simply be put in everyday recycling bins. However, there are other ways to recycle magazines.

Don’t unnecessarily throw away this recyclable item. In this article, we will give you all the information that you need to know about how to properly recycle and reuse magazines. 

How To Recycle Magazines

People often mistake magazines for non-recyclable paper, because of their glossy exterior. 

However, you can recycle them, and it’s fairly easy to do so. 

Therefore, in order to properly recycle a magazine, you need to remove any non-recyclable materials from the magazine. 

This includes things like stickers, plastic wrap, and product samples. 

However, you can leave staples in magazines as they are removed during the recycling process.

Once all non-recyclable materials have been removed from the magazine, you can simply put the magazine in the bin that you take out for weekly curbside recycling. 

If your community does not offer curbside recycling, you can bring your magazine to the nearest recycling center. 

When at the recycling center, magazines are shredded and combined with water to create a pulp-like substance. 

That pulp is then blended and the resulting product can be remade into things like newspapers, writing paper, or tissues, but not back into magazines. 

How To Reuse And Upcycle Magazines

Before you throw your magazine in the recycling you can get plenty of reuse out of the magazine. Here are just a few suggestions.

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Donate It To A Doctor’s Office

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and libraries are always looking for magazines to add to their waiting rooms. 

Even if the magazine is a month or two old these places will still take magazines. This is a great way to ensure that your magazine gets a “second life.”

Use It For Crafts

Old magazines are perfect for kids’ crafts and come with endless possibilities. 

Therefore, encourage your children to make a mosaic out of magazine pictures or even make a paper bead chain that spans the length of a wall in their room.

Save On Your Moving Expenses

Magazines make great packing material, therefore, if you are planning a move try saving all your magazines and using them to wrap your dished or fragile items while packing. 

This will help save on the cost of packing materials and help save the environment. 

Make A Trendy New Bag

Old magazine pages can be woven together to make a stylish and colorful new bag. 

They are just as durable as the plastic bags you get at a grocery store but help reduce the environmental impact of you using a plastic bag by reusing your magazine.

Are Magazines Bad For The Environment?

Are Magazines Bad For The Environment?

While Magazines are recyclable, the production process creates a lot of waste. 

Furthermore, catalogs alone account for 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emission per year in America alone. 

To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent to the carbon emission of 2 million cars. 

That doesn’t even account for all of the waste created by the trucks and cars it takes to deliver your magazine to your front door. 

Even though magazines can be recycled, they cannot be made from recycled materials. 

That means a magazine needs new resources to be produced. As a result, magazines account for the use of 53 million trees and 53 billion gallons of water in America each year. 

Additionally, magazines often get mistaken as non-recyclable items and as a result, only 20% of magazines get recycled. This results in the waste of tons of reusable resources. 

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Therefore, switching to a digital version of a magazine can help cut back on all the pollution that results from the production and delivery of magazines. 

What Are Magazines Made Of?

You may be wondering how that glossy paper is recyclable. Furthermore, magazines are just paper that has been treated to give it a shinier look that is more appealing to a consumer. 

This shine is achieved by coating the paper in a white clay called kaolin and then buffing it with rollers. 

This clay is then washed off during the recycling process. As mentioned earlier, the resulting product makes the fibers not strong enough to reproduce a magazine.

However, at least it allows the materials that were used to create the magazine to be incorporated into a new product. 

When Shouldn’t A Magazine Be Recycled?

There are certain instances where a magazine should not be recycled.

The most common instance is when a magazine gets soaked. 

Furthermore, the water causes the fibers of the paper to weaken making it impossible to reuse the paper. 

You also should not recycle a magazine until you have removed all non-recyclable materials from the magazine. 

Having non-recyclable materials in with your recyclable materials can sometimes result in your entire bin of recyclables being thrown out. 

So, it is very important to sift through the magazine before tossing it into the recycling bin. 

What Are Some Alternatives To Printed Magazines?

The biggest way to make an environmental impact when it comes to printed magazines is to look for an alternative. 

While magazines are recyclable, the production and delivery of the magazines are harmful to the environment. 

Furthermore, some of the suggested alternatives can help cut down on the negative environmental impact that magazines can have.

Switch To The Digital Subscription

A digital subscription saves the environment by ensuring that you aren’t contributing to the waste of resources that goes into printing and shipping magazines. 

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As a bonus, a digital subscription is typically a lot cheaper than a physical subscription and you can never lose it!

Check Out A Magazine From Your Library

Your local library often carries the most recent issue of a magazine that you can check out completely for free. 

While the magazine is still getting printed, it ensures that multiple people are using a copy of the magazine before it gets put into the recycling bin. 

Change Your Marketing Approach

One of the biggest wastes of magazines comes from catalogs that are shipped directly to consumers via mail. 

These often get tossed directly in the trash without a second glance or a consideration that they might be recyclable. 

Furthermore, if you own a business opt for an e-mail marketing campaign. It’s often much more cost-effective and will show that your business is committed to going green. 

Additionally, if you are trying to reach a demographic that only reads physical mail, try using paper instead of a glossy magazine. 

While both products are recyclable, consumers are much more likely to recycle a paper advertisement than a catalog. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle textbooks, whether you can recycle soft and hard cover books, and whether you can recycle phone books.


When it comes to recycling magazines the most important thing is to be conscientious of how you are disposing of your magazine. Take the time to consider if the product can be recycled and then make sure to remove any non-recyclable items before doing so. 

By being knowledgeable on the best recycling practices for magazines you are helping do your part in saving the planet. 


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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