MOST MAGAZINES are printed on coated, groundwood paper, which is the same kind of paper used by newspapers. Clay, the most common coating, smooths the paper's surface and helps glossy inks adhere better. A two-sided coated paper sheet used for magazines normally will have 30 percent to 35 percent clay and filler and 65 percent to 70 percent paper fiber content.

Approximately 17,320 different magazines were published in 2002. This is the lowest number of titles since 1996. Almost 360 million copies were sold in 2002, according to Audit Bureau data, with the total number of magazine being higher. Seventy-two percent of all magazines are sent to subscribers; 13 percent are sold as single-issue sales; and 15 percent are returned unsold. Almost half of single-issue sales occur in supermarkets.

Catalogs also are primarily printed on coated, groundwood paper. Most catalogs are distributed through the mail. Fourteen billion catalogs were mailed in 1998. More recent data is not available. The EPA's data for magazines does not include catalogs. All data in this profile is limited to magazines, unless otherwise noted.

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

Magazines Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 2.13 million tons or 0.9% by weight.*
  • 15.1 pounds per person per year.*


  • 680,000 tons or a 32% recycling rate.*

Recycled Content:

  • Magazine publishers were slow to use recycled fiber because coating paper is an exacting process.
  • Contaminants can reduce smoothness and cause printing problems.


  • Must be shredded properly.
  • Clay coating resists composting.

Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 1.45 million tons or 0.9% of discarded MSW by weight.*
  • Clay content gives magazines a per-pound Btu value of 4,500 to 5,000, which is lower than most paper products.
  • Burning coated paper creates more ash than burning other forms of paper.

Landfill Volume:

  • 4.75 million cubic yards in 1997.
  • 1% of landfilled MSW in 1997.


  • Landfilled density of 800 pounds per cubic yard.

Source Reduction:

  • Online magazines are paperless.
  • Lighter and smaller paper can be used in response to coated paper price increases.

Recycling Markets:

  • In the past, clay was a major barrier to recycling efforts.
  • Deinking mills using flotation technologies are the primary market.
  • Other markets include mixed wastepaper users, such as containerboard and tissue paper.

End-Market Specifications:

  • ISRI Paperstock Guide No. 10, “Magazines.”
  • May contain a small percentage of uncoated news-type papers.
  • Prohibited materials limited to 1%, outthrows to 3%.
  • Contaminants include ultraviolet, cured inks; pressure-sensitive adhesives; water-soluble glue bindings; plastic bags; and metallic or plastic inserts.


Direct Mail Association, New York, N.Y.

Magazine Publishers of America, New York, N.Y.

“Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2000 Facts and Figures,” EPA, Washington, D.C.

“Scrap Specifications Circular 2003, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries,” Washington, D.C.

*2000 EPA estimates.