Chaz Miller, Semi-retired, 40-year veteran of the waste and recycling industry

October 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Profiles in Garbage: Newspaper

Newspapers are printed on newsprint, an uncoated groundwood paper made by mechanically grinding wood pulp without first removing lignin and other wood pulp components. This creates a different product than the chemical pulping process used to make office paper and other paper products. Newspapers are the largest component by weight and volume of a curbside recycling program.

Approximately 56 million newspapers are sold every day by the 1,480 daily newspapers in the United States, averaging 2.2 readers per copy. On Sunday, 917 American newspapers sell more than 59 million papers, averaging 2.4 readers per copy. Additionally, 8,000 weekly newspapers sell more than 74 million copies a week. Newspaper readership has slowly declined throughout the 1990s.

Since 1960, newspaper generation increased by 6.85 million tons or 96 percent, but newspaper's solid waste market share decreased by 25 percent. Newspaper recycling increased by 6.4 million tons or 352 percent, and the recycling rate increased by 130 percent during this same period.

Newspaper Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 13.96 million tons, or 6.1% of MSW by weight.*

  • 11.33 million tons of this are newspapers;

  • 2.63 million tons are advertising inserts printed on newsprint.

  • 100.9 pounds per person per year.*

  • 118 newspages per pound (1995).

  • 85% of newspapers are generated in homes, 15% in businesses.

  • Recycled:

  • 8.23 million tons for a 59% recycling rate.*

  • Industry data shows 9.3 million tons recovered in 2000 for a 70.7% recovery rate.

  • Recycled Content:

  • 28% of the fiber in American newspapers comes from old newspapers.

  • 27 states have voluntary or mandatory requirements that newspapers sold in those states contain prescribed amounts of recycled fiber.

  • Composted:

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

  • Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 5.73 million tons or 3.5% 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 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:

  • Newspaper standard basis weight declined from 32 pounds per 3,000 square feet in 1974 to 30 pounds per 3,000 square feet in 1995.

  • Average number of newspages per pound increased from 93 in 1985 to 118 in 1995.

  • Other reduction techniques include printing fewer overissue copies; distributing fewer copies in a smaller circulation area; and using a smaller web printing press to produce a smaller paper.

  • Online newspapers are an electronic alternative to fiber newspapers.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., estimates that source reduction measures reduced newspaper generation by 4.36 million tons between 1990 and 1999.

  • Recycling Markets:

    Old newspapers' largest market is the recycled newsprint industry, which recovers clean pulp by deinking old newspapers. Most North American newsprint mills produce significant recycled content.

    Exporting old newspapers to papermills in Canada and other companies is the next largest market, followed by recycled paper board mills, which produce boxboard packaging used for cereals, shoes and other products.

    Other markets include cellulose insulation and animal bedding.

    End-Market Specifications:

    Contamination during collection is a major problem. Newspapers should be dry and not mixed with food, broken glass or other paper grades.

    The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, D.C., has four grades of newspaper collected for recycling. Newspaper collected at the curbside generally meets ISRI Paperstock Grade 6 (news) requirements of no more than 1% prohibitive materials and 5% total outthrows.

    Other grades include 7 (news, de-ink quality); 8 (special news de-ink quality); and 9 (over-issue news). These other grades allow decreasing levels of contamination.

    Processors pull out the contaminants, bale the newspapers and sell them to an end-market.

    Many newsprint mills reject newspaper published with flexographic inks because those inks are hard to remove from paper fibers.

    Recycling Cost and Value:

  • Collection costs range from $60 per ton to $90 per ton.

  • Processing costs range from $20 per ton to $55 per ton.

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


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

    “Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, 1998 Update,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Solid Waste, 1999, Washington, D.C. Website:

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

    “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 1999,” EPA Office of Solid Waste, 2001, Washington, D.C. Website:

    National Solid Wastes Management Association's Waste Recyclers Council: Processing and Collection Cost Studies, Washington, D.C. Website:

    “National Source Reduction Characterization Report For Municipal Solid Waste in the United States,” EPA Office of Solid Waste, 1999, Washington, D.C. Website:

    Newspaper Association of America, Falls Church, Va. Website:

    Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, 1990, Providence, R.I.

    “Scrap Specifications Circular 2001: Guidelines for Paper Stock,” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, D.C. Website:

    *1999 EPA estimates.

About the Author(s)

Chaz Miller

Semi-retired, 40-year veteran of the waste and recycling industry, National Waste & Recycling Association

Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry.

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