My parents live in a small place where paper is not recycled. They don't even separate the paper from the rest of the residues.

I can't carry their paper away to recycle it when I visit them so I was wondering which alternatives there are.

I know that composting is a possibility but I am looking for something different as I am sure that they won't do it.

What else can be done with used paper instead of recycling it?

4 Answers 4


I'm adressing newspaper paper here specifically, but for some of these you can use other paper types as well. (Also, only things you can do repeatedly, and no low-volume hobby stuff like papier mache).

  1. Use for packaging. This may not get rid of all their old paper, and it may not look particularly festive, but 'in the old days' when we didn't yet have all kinds of modern packaging materials, wrapping stuff in old newspapers was 'the most natural thing in the world'.
    When packing delicate objects, you would also stuff the containers with crumbled up papers instead of using modern paper tissue, styrofoam etc.

  2. Wash your windows with it

  3. Line the bottom of the bird cage, puppy crate or cat litter box with it

  4. Wrap fruits and vegetable in them before putting these in the fridge, as an alternative to plastic bags. This serves as a moisture buffer. In plastic bags vegetables (especially leafy ones) will produce condensation (leads to rotting), and without any protection the vegetables will dry out more.
    (This will not work for all vegetables, e.g. carrots are better left dry to prevent root formation).

  5. Shelf lining. Another old-fashioned method to keep your shelves clean. In cupboards or in high places, you (or your visitors) won't even see it.

  6. Fire starter. But that's so obvious it probably does not apply.

  7. For the DIY: Replace rags with old newspaper when cleaning paint brushes, removing oil stains and mopping up petrol spills.

  8. Windscreen cover for the car when it's very hot or freezing cold.

  9. Clean your oven with moist paper


I know of two things you can do with it. If they burn wood (or anything else for heat) then they can make fire bricks with it. The neatest thing I know to do with it is to make your own paper out of it. Homemade recycled paper looks nice, and has a neat texture. Some people use it in place of stationary. I have not personally done either of these projects but here are some resources on how you can do it.

You can see how to make fire bricks Here, Here, Here, and Here as well as numerous places on YouTube. Again, I've never done it so I can't make a recommendation as to which one is best.

You can see how to make recycled paper Here, Here, and Here.

Here is a list of other suggestions, some of which are pretty good ideas.


They could put it in their garden to suppress weeds and leave it there to break down. It conserves water and keeps the soil cooler too for the earthworm population. Putting it down between the rows keeps you from getting muddy feet when you are out there working after a rain. Put rocks and water on it initially to keep it on the ground and from blowing away.

  • Thanks for the answer and welcome to Sustainability SE. Unfortunately they don't have a garden, but it's a good answer anyway :)
    – S -
    Mar 21, 2016 at 18:06
  • Do they have landscaping around the house? You would have to bury the paper under leaves or wood chips so it looks nice but it works well for this. It conserves water and provides weed control and shelter to earthworms.
    – Buttercup
    Mar 23, 2016 at 17:35

If you are burning wood for heat, you don't even have to make fire bricks out of it. We've found that if you have a good fire going in our wood stove that we can lay 2-3 inches of paper on the logs before going to bed, and it will hold the fire all night.

This does produce substantially more ash.

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