Newspapers are printed on newsprint, an uncoated groundwood paper made by mechanically grinding wood pulp without first removing lignin and other wood pulp components. Newspapers are the largest component by weight and volume of a curbside recycling program.

“Groundwood inserts,” the preprinted advertising inserts placed inside newspapers, supply almost one-fifth of the overall newspaper tonnage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2001, approximately 56 million newspapers were sold every weekday by the 1,468 daily U.S. newspapers, averaging 2.2 readers per copy. On Sunday, 913 newspapers sold more than 59 million papers, averaging 2.4 readers per copy. Additionally, 7,689 weekly newspapers sold more than 71 million copies a week. Newspaper readership and advertising slowly declined throughout the 1990s.

In 2000, newspaper generation was 7.9 million tons higher than in 1960, but newspaper's solid waste market share decreased by 20 percent. Newspaper recycling increased by 6.9 million tons and the recycling rate increased by 127 percent during this same period.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the Environmental Industry Associations, Washington, D.C. E-mail the author at: [email protected].

Newspaper Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 15.03 million tons or 6.5% by weight (12.2 million tons of newspaper and 2.83 million tons of inserts).*
  • 106.8 pounds per person per year.*
  • Recycled:

  • 8.75 million tons or 58.2%.*
  • 9 million tons or 78% in 2001, 67% with inserts (industry data).
  • Recycled Content:

  • 28% for U.S. newspapers.
  • 27 states have voluntary or mandatory recycled fiber requirements.
  • Composted:

  • Highly compostable with only trace amounts of ink in the compost.
  • Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 6.28 million tons or 3.9% of discarded MSW by weight.*
  • 7,500 Btus per pound vs. 4,500 Btus to 5,000 Btus for a pound of garbage.
  • Landfill Volume:

  • 15.3 million cubic yards or 3.6% of landfilled MSW by volume in 1997.
  • Density:

  • 12-inch stack weighs 35 pounds.
  • Loose, unbaled newspapers weigh 360 pounds per cubic yard to 500 pounds per cubic yard.
  • Baled newspapers weigh 720 pounds per cubic yard to 1,000 pounds per cubic yard.
  • Landfilled newspapers weigh 800 pounds per cubic yard.
  • Source Reduction:

  • Average number of newspages per pound increased from 93 in 1985 to 118 in 1995.
  • Online newspapers are an electronic alternative to fiber newspapers.
  • Recycling Markets:

  • 37.6% of recovered newspapers are made into recycled newsprint.
  • Other markets include exports, paperboard, container board, cellulose insulation and animal bedding.
  • End-Market Specifications:

  • Newspapers should be dry and not mixed with other recyclables.
  • Many newsprint mills reject newspaper published with flexographic inks because they are difficult to remove from paper fibers.
  • ISRI guidelines for curbside collected newspaper include grades: 6, news; 7, news, de-ink quality; and 8, special news de-ink quality, which all allow for decreased contamination.
  • Sources:

    American Forest and Paper Association, Washington, D.C.

    “Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 1998 Update,” EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 1999

    “Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines,” National Recycling Coalition, Alexandria, Va. 1990

    “Municipal Solid Waste In the United States: 2000 Facts and Figures,” EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 2002.

    Newspaper Association of America, Falls Church, Va.

    “Scrap Specifications Circular 2002: Guidelines for Paper Stock, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries,”

    Washington, D.C.

    *2000 EPA estimates.