Office Paper Recycling

Most of our office waste paper is not waste. It is estimated that more than 70% of office waste is recyclable paper: letters, copy paper, computer paper, colored paper, newspaper and cardboard. An effective office paper recycling program is good for the environment and insures compliance with the law.

This section provides useful information to help businesses and organizations develop an effective paper recycling program. It is a program used by the City and County of Honolulu.

It Works

Davies Pacific Center. American Savings Bank. Hawaiian Telcom. Sheraton Hotels. Hilton Hawaiian Village. They're just a few of the corporations that have discovered the advantages of office paper recycling.

And recycling is tremendously popular with employees. Experience with recycling programs in many types of businesses has shown that employee participation continues at 90%.

It's Good for the Environment

When paper is made from old paper, up to 70% less energy is used than if paper is made from virgin wood fiber. Recycling one ton of paper could save the energy equivalent of 380 gallons of oil and substitutes for three tons of virgin wood fiber.

By recycling, we can reduce the amount of trees cut for paper production. One ton of waste paper can substitute for about three tons of virgin wood fiber in the making of new paper.

When we recycle, we reduce the amount of waste going to disposal sites. Existing landfills will last longer, and expensive expansions of H-POWER may not be needed.

It's the law

Since 1990, the City and County of Honolulu has required all City offices to recycle paper. Effective July 1, 1996 all Oahu office buildings that occupy 20,000 square feet or more are required to recycle office paper, newspaper and cardboard.

What types of paper your office recycling program should collect

Almost all paper can be recycled, but most office programs focus on the high-grades (white and computer). That's because these grades have stable markets, are generated in larger quantities and command a higher price.

Low-grade papers are in less demand, so dealers pay less (sometimes nothing) for them. Stable markets exist for colored paper, newspaper and cardboard.

Office buildings with 20,000 square feet or more of office space are required by law to recycle office paper (white, colored, computer) newspaper and cardboard.

It's Easy

The 4-step Office Paper Recycling Program, as illustrated, makes it easy.

4-Step Recycling Program

1. Desk-top Collection -- Employees separate recyclable paper into desk-top folders.

2. Central Collection Stations -- Employees empty full folders into centralized drop-off containers.

3. Transportation to Main Storage Area -- Custodial staff collects paper from centralized drop-off containers

4. Waste Paper Dealer -- Recyclable paper is taken by a waste hauler or recycler.
Please be sure to put only paper that can be recycled into the containers. The wrong type of paper can contaminate and ruin an entire batch of recyclable paper.

What you can and cannot Recycle

You Can Recycle...




White paper, including:

  • typing paper
  • letterhead
  • copier paper
  • memos
  • "blue" prints with black ink

Computer paper, including:

  • all white
  • green-and-white bar
  • multi-stripe


Colored paper, including:

  • yellow legal paper
  • multi-copy forms (carbonless)
  • manila and colored folders


Corrugated cardboard

Staples need not be removed

You Cannot Recycle...

Carbon paper
Thermal fax paper
Binders: glued, metal, spiral
Telephone books
Magazines / glossy paper
Blueprints with blue ink
Gummed labels, adhesives, tape
Paper bags, plates, cups
Tissues, paper towels, napkins
Rubber bands, paper clips

Collection Containers  -- Desk-top Collection Containers

Single folder with divider
Adding the divider lets you collect low- and high-grade paper

Vertical divider
Single section lets you collect high-grade paper

Sorting tray
Multi-section let you collect low- and high-grade paper

Sorting box
Multi-section can be placed on a desk or the floor

Collection Containers -- Transportation and storage containers

96-gallon wheeled cart
Stored in the main storage or loading dock area. In areas where heavy volumes of paper are generated, such as computers centers or print shops, this type of container can replace the central collection containers.

Wheeled hampers
Stored in the main storage or loading dock area. In areas where heavy volumes of paper are generated, such as computers centers or print shops, this type of container can replace the central collection containers.

Collection Containers -- Central Collection Containers

Any kind of box
Where office aesthetics allow, reuse on-hand boxes. You will reinforce the recycling ethic and further reduce your waste generation.

Single container
Plastic containers with lids are available in many styles, dimensions and colors, and can be used for high-grade collection or grouped for multi-grade collection.

Stackable bins
These bins can accommodate multi-grade collection with floor space efficiency.

Reusable bags
Reusable bags can be placed on a stand. Where aesthetics are a consideration, use the bags as liners in more attractive containers. Your office can set up one, two or more bags to collect one or more grades of paper.

Recycling cluster
Attractive clusters of containers are available in metal, cardboard or plastic.

Who you should contract to collect your paper

Collection service can be provided by a refuse company, recycling company (or processor) or by a small collector. A refuse hauler may offer a combined cost/pay structure to handle both your refuse and recyclable paper. In other words, the company would charge you for the hauling of both refuse and paper, and credit you the current market value on the paper. This can reduce your overall disposal costs, or at least provide a break-even arrangement.

A recycling company may collect and pay you for the paper or collect it at no charge/no pay, depending on the current value of the paper. A small collector will most likely provide no charge/no pay service. If you select a recycler, you should discuss lowering your disposal costs with your refuse hauler, once your recycling program is underway.

It is better to offer all of your paper grades to the same collection contractor. The higher value and volume of the high-grade paper can help to defray the costs to collect the low-grades.

Refuse Haulers, Recyclers and Collectors

Refuse Haulers

Start with your current refuse hauler. See the yellow pages of your phone book for other haulers.

Recycling Companies


Honolulu Recovery Systems

Island Recycling

RRR Recycling Services Hawaii

SD Systems, Inc.


Kokua Recycle

Ohana Recycling
285-5818 (pager)

Confidential Records Destruction

Access Information Management


Shred-It Hawaii

Assess your recycling potential

Figure it out!  We have developed a worksheet to help give you a better idea of how much paper waste your office generates and the potential for starting an office paper recycling program.  

To lay out the entire plan for your recycling program, including a full cost/benefit analysis, use Worksheet 5, "Recycling Action Plan."  This worksheet is contained in a PDF file which you can download and then read with Acrobat Reader (Click to download PDF file containing Worksheets and Tables).  If you do not have Acrobat Reader, you can download it and use this software for free (click to download Acrobat Reader ).

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© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.