Business Overview

Despite the digital revolution brought about by computers, people continue to use enormous amounts of paper. Up to 40 percent of municipal solid waste is paper, which creates a huge need for paper recycling. Recycling, after all, is the most environmentally responsible way to dispose of old paper.

Paper recycling businesses play a critical role in the recycling process. They collect unwanted paper from individuals and businesses, and then deliver it to paper recycling facilities. In turn, recycling facilities pay for the paper they’re brought.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who doesn’t mind a little manual labor and working alone at times may enjoy running a paper recycling business. Moving and sorting paper involves light-to-moderate physical work, and business owners spend a lot of time doing this by themselves.

Many people who start this type of business do so as a part-time venture (at least at first). Pickup, sorting, and drop-off times can easily be scheduled around a full-time job, family responsibilities, or other obligations

What happens during a typical day at a paper recycling business?

Paper recycling businesses handle literal tons of paper, so business owners spend a lot of time moving and sorting paper.

On a given day, business owners might be picking up paper, accepting deliveries of paper (see Insider Tips), sorting paper by type, or delivering paper to a recycling facility. To increase operational efficiency, business owners typically focus on one of these tasks in a single day.

What is the target market?

While almost every person and organization has paper to recycle, the most profitable sources of paper are usually businesses.

Small offices, print shops, and retailers are especially good sources. They’re usually located close to each other, so drive time between pickup locations is reduced. Also, their paper and cardboard isn’t contaminated with food.

How does a paper recycling business make money?

Recycling facilities pay paper recycling business owners for the paper they bring to the facility. The rates paid are usually given per ton(e.g. newspaper might command $50 per ton).

While some business owners might want to charge the people and organizations that they collect paper from, this practice is generally inadvisable. Charging to take paper away frequently results in a business taking away garbage as well as recyclable paper. Not charging to take away paper makes it easier for a business to require that people and organizations properly sort recyclable paper from unwanted garbage.

What is the growth potential for a paper recycling business?

A paper recycling business may remain a small, one-person operation, or it can grow to be a multi-state corporation. Mid-America Paper Recycling and Waste Management are two of the larger paper recyclers. Royal Oak Recycling is a mid-sized business. The smallest businesses usually don’t have websites, as they can get the business they need by driving (or even walking) around locally.