Paper recycling

Learn more about the paper recycling process and why some items can't go in your recycling cart.

Paper recycling process

There are a few things needed for a paper item to be able to go into your recycling cart.
  • Little to no food, oil and grease
    • Why napkins and paper to-go containers aren't accepted
  • Long enough fiber lengths
    • Why shredded paper and tissue paper aren't accepted
  • Not overly dyed
    • Why most wrapping paper and blueprint paper aren't accepted

Papers are sorted into 3 different categories at the recycling facility.

  • Newspaper
  • Mixed paper
  • Cardboard

After sorting, paper is either baled or put into a compactor that's destined to go to West Rock paper mill in St. Paul. The majority of our residential papers go to West Rock to be made into new boxboard (think cracker and cereal boxes). 

The first step in the paper recycling process is to 'pulp' the paper. Paper is pushed into a massive mixing bowl with water. The water and agitation breaks papers apart into their individual fibers. From there the fiber is further processed and de-inked. All metal items (staples and paper clips) plastic (windows from envelopes) are removed. The paper pulp will eventually go through a series of rollers to be pressed out and formed into massive rolls of paper. 

Watch a video of the recycling sorting process or sign up to tour the recycling facility

Paper items that can't go in your recycling cart

Paper plates, cups and to-go containers

If a paper item has come in direct contact with food (ex. napkin, paper plate, paper cup, to-go container) it should not be put in your recycling cart. These containers often have a plastic lining, a spray coating or other additives that recyclers and composters don't want. 

Pizza boxes from delivery are an exception. So long as they don't have too much oil or grease on them, they can go in your recycling cart.

Shredded paper

Challenges with shredded paper

  • Paper bags of shredded paper often pop open during collection. The little bits of paper stick to other containers or fall through sorting equipment and end up with the crushed glass. 
  • The paper lengths are also so short, that the paper isn't always able to be recycled back into another piece of paper. 
  • Composters won't accept shredded paper as there may be micro-plastics in the ink.

Eureka Recycling does have the ability to recover some of the shredded paper for recycling, but it's best to not shred it in the first place. Options to reduce shredded paper at yoru home include:

  • Switch to paperless billing.
  • Tear off your name, address and account number and put the rest of the document into the recycling.
  • Reach out to your bank or credit union to see if they offer secure shredding.


Gift wrap and papers with glitter or foil

Brightly colored gift wrap contains very little fiber. It's mostly filler, dye and binding agents like glue. Wrapping paper, gift cards, etc. often also have glitter, foil and velvety areas that are not recyclable.

Look for alternative gift wrap options like newspaper, and old map or wrapping a gift in a reusable bag or cloth to reduce the amount of gift wrap in your home.

Contact us

Solid Waste & Recycling





Eastside Maintenance Facility

2635 University Ave NE

Minneapolis, MN 55418

Office hours

9 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Monday – Friday

This building is closed to the public.