In my work and study, I have a lot of printouts - many of which re drafts and redrafts. Is there are a way to recycle printed paper (standard printer paper) without using harsh chemicals and minimal waste?
Both sides are printed on.
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Most areas do collect paper for recycling. The paper gets chopped up into pulp. Air is introduced and the ink sticks to the air bubbles, which rise to the top. The ink bubbles are then skimmed of the top and the fibres are processed into recycled paper (newspaper, for example). This might be a nice little project, but I doubt anyone has the stamina to make recycled paper at home. The outcome will be pretty, but certainly not printable.
In principle, paper can be composted as well, but the fibres are usually bleached, which already introduces some chemicals into the paper. Most inks also contain harmful chemicals, so composting might not be the best idea. In a sense, composting paper could also be seen to be a waste. It takes a lot to get trees into paper form. Ending the life-cycle of the fibres by composting reduces the availability of recycled paper, and is at least partly responsible for chopping down more trees. (On a side note, greasy paper, like pizza boxes, should be composted, because oil is very hard to remove in the recycling process.)