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 curbside recycling programs.

Groundwood inserts, the preprinted advertising inserts placed inside newspapers, supply 19 percent of the overall newspaper tonnage.

In 2003, approximately 55.2 million newspapers were sold every weekday by 1,456 daily U.S. newspapers, averaging 2.3 readers per copy. On Sunday, 917 newspapers collectively sold 58.5 million papers, averaging 2.4 readers per copy. Additionally, 6,704 weekly newspapers collectively sold 50.2 million copies a week. Newspaper readership and advertising have slowly declined since 1990.

The $45 billion in newspaper advertising in 2003 gave the industry an 18 percent advertising market share.

In 2003, newspaper generation was 5.5 million tons higher than in 1960, but newspaper's solid waste market share had decreased since then by one-third. Newspaper recycling increased by 8.6 million tons, and the recycling rate increased by 222 percent during the same period.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, Washington. E-mail the author at: [email protected].

Newspaper Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 12.6 million tons, or 5.4 percent by weight* (10.3 million tons of newspaper, 2.4 million tons of inserts).

  • 13.5 million tons in 2003 (industry data).

  • 86.9 pounds per person (lbs./person) per year.*


  • 10.4 million tons, or 82.4 percent.*

  • 9.9 million tons, or 73.4 percent, in 2003 (industry data).

Recycled Content:

  • 30 percent for U.S. newspapers.

  • 27 states have voluntary or mandatory recycled fiber requirements.


  • Highly compostable, with only trace amounts of ink in the compost.

Burned or Landfilled:

  • 2.2 million tons or 1.4 percent of discarded MSW by weight.*

Per-pound Btu value of 7,500 is 50 percent higher than 1 pound of garbage.

Landfill Volume:

  • 15.3 million cubic yards (cu. yds.) or 3.6 percent of landfilled MSW by volume in 1997.


  • A 12-inch stack weighs 35 lbs.

  • Loose, unbaled newspapers weigh 360 to 500 pounds per cubic yard (lbs./cu. yd.).

  • Baled newspapers weigh 720 to 1,000 lbs./cu. yd.

  • Landfilled newspapers weigh 800 lbs./cu. yd.

Source Reduction:

  • More newspages per pound: From 93 per lb. in 1985 to 118 per lb. in 1995.

  • Online newspapers are an electronic alternative.


  • Making newsprint out of old newspapers is the largest market.

  • Other markets include exports, paperboard and container board, cellulose insulation and animal bedding.

End-Market Specifications:

  • ISRI guidelines for curbside-collected newspaper include grades: 6 (news), 7 (de-ink quality news), and 8 (special news de-ink quality), which allows for decreasingly lower contamination.

  • Generally, old newspapers (ONP) should be kept dry and clean.

  • Flexographic inks may cause problems at some mills.


American Forest and Paper Association, Washington,

“Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal In the United States: Facts and Figures for 2003,” EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 2005,

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

National Recycling Coalition, Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines, 1990,

Newspaper Association of America, Falls Church, Va.,

“Scrap Specifications Circular 2005: Guidelines for Paper Stock,” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington,

*2003 EPA estimates