The Process For Recycling Magazines


Now, the thing to bear in mind with recycling magazines is the glossy cover, which has been the centre of some debate. Of course, the internal pages of the magazine are fine, as they are made from paper and are recycled as ‘mixed domestic paper’. Recycled magazines and catalogues are often recycled into newsprint, tissue, stationery or copy and printer paper.

To read about the paper recycling process, follow this link.

However, the glossy cover is the cause of some difficulty for many recyclers.

The truth is, the glossy cover does go through the recycling process, but not happily. The coating, which is a combination of chemicals and adhesives, has often been blamed for blocking or ‘gumming up’ recycling equipment, and that is certainly not ideal. There have been calls from various environmental outlets for the printing industry to develop and use water soluble coatings to make the recycling process easier, but not many publications are doing this.

The benefit of a glossy coating is to make the image stand out, and so almost all magazines use this feature to maintain a level playing field.

So what is the gloss?

There are generally two different ways of glossing the paper, one is calcium carbonate, the other is clay-based kaolin. Both have their environmental pros and cons. Clay-based kaolin is the naturally more environmentally friendly option, but it is ‘gunkier’ and more damaging to recycling equipment. Calcium carbonate is naturally lighter, so requires less bleaching and has a transport advantage over its clay counterpart.

The secondary process in glossing the cover is generally from a choice of three finishes, ‘varnish’, ‘aqueous’ or ‘UV’. Varnish is very similar to the chemicals that have already been used to make the cover, and don’t require much further effort, but is petroleum based. Aqueous is a water-based finish, which whilst appearing to be the solution that the environmental audience want, takes considerably more heat to dry than the others. UV refers to the drying process of the third option, which is less heat exhaustive, but again, contains a lot of petroleum derived chemicals. This treatment process for the covers is sometimes referred to as ‘super-calendared’.


There doesn’t seem to be a winning formula, yet.

However, with technological advances in the paper industry, it seems that a solution may not be far away. The ideal situation would be for the government to intervene and create new rules or incentives to make magazine covers greener.

Are there other ways of recycling magazines, aside from domestic recycling?

Oh, but of course! One simple method of recycling magazines is to feed them through your office shredder and use them as stuffing for parcels. This is a far more environmentally friendly option than polystyrene, which is very bad for the environment. Or, you could do a simple act of kindness and donate the magazines to your local doctors, dentists, hospital or retirement home. The craftier and more creative people among you will find a DIY way or reusing the glossy covers, perhaps for art projects.