Despite declining readership, newspapers remain a key curbside recyclable.

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

August 1, 2008

3 Min Read

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 pre-printed advertising inserts placed inside newspapers, supply 29 percent of the overall newspaper tonnage.

In 2006, approximately 52.3 million newspapers were sold every weekday by the 1,437 daily U.S. newspapers, averaging 2.1 readers per copy. More than 900 Sunday newspapers sold a combined 53.2 million papers, averaging 2.5 readers per copy. Additionally, in 2005, 6,659 weekly newspapers sold 49.5 million copies a week. Newspaper readership and advertising have slowly declined since 1990.

With $45 billion in advertising ($42 billion in print, $3 billion on the Web), newspapers accounted for less than 18 percent of the advertising market share in 2007.

In 2006, newspapers generated 5.25 million tons more waste than in 1960, but newspaper's solid waste market share decreased by 40 percent. Newspaper recycling increased by 9.05 million tons, and the recycling rate increased by 243 percent during this same period.

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


American Forest and Paper Association, Washington,

“Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006,” Office of Solid Waste,

“Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines,” National Recyling Coalition, Washington,

Newspaper Association of America, Falls Church, Va.

“Scrap Specifications Circular 2007,” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington,

*Data is from 2006 EPA estimates.

Newspapers Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 12.36 million tons, or 4.9% by weight (8.83 million tons of newspaper plus 3.53 million tons of inserts).*

  • 13.2 million tons according to industry data.

  • 82.56 pounds per person per year.*


  • 10.87 million tons, or 87.9% recycling rate.*

  • 9.6 million tons, or 72.4% in 2006 according to industry data.

Recycled Content:

  • 32% for American newspapers.

  • 27 states have voluntary or mandatory recycled fiber requirements.


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

Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 1.49 million tons, or 0.9% of discarded MSW by weight.*

  • Per-pound Btu value of 7,500 is 50% higher than a pound of garbage.

Landfill Volume:

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


  • 12" stack weighs 35 pounds.

  • Loose, unbaled newspapers weigh 360-500 pounds per cubic yard.

  • Baled newspapers weigh 720-1,000 pounds per cubic yard.

  • Landfilled newspapers weigh 800 pounds per cubic yard.

Source Reduction:

  • Many newspapers use a lighter paper weight and smaller page size to conserve paper.

  • Online newspapers an electronic alternative.

Recycling Markets:

  • One-third of recycled newspapers are made into newsprint. Slightly less than one-third is exported. Other markets include paperboard and other paper products, cellulose insulation, and animal bedding.

End Market Specifications:

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

  • Generally, old newsprint should be kept dry and clean.

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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