A sticky note isn’t like a journal or a photo album. You don’t hold onto it for years and look back at it in the future. Rather, it’s a piece of paper that’s designed for one-time use and temporary notes. This means it may end up in the trash!
Quality Logo Products has sold over 5 million pads of custom sticky notes since 2003. The last thing we want is for all that paper to end up in landfills. Our customers feel the same way. They always ask us whether they can recycle their sticky notes after using them.
Fast Company published an article criticizing the promotional products industry for contributing to the ongoing landfill issues. While sustainability should definitely be at the forefront of all our minds, it’s definitely a bit of an overreach to blame an entire industry, especially when there are many eco-friendly ways to reuse or recycle your branded swag.
Here are ways you can upcycle and recycle sticky notes!
Are Sticky Notes Bad for the Environment?
Sticky notes are made from paper, which you already know should never be thrown in the trash. Paper is bad for the environment because when it rots, methane is emitted – a type of greenhouse gas that harms the air we breathe.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped people from tossing sticky notes and other paper in the garbage. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 18.4 million tons of paper ended up in landfills in 2017. This is despite the fact that most types of paper, including white office paper, newspapers, magazines, and catalogs, can be thrown in curbside recycling.
We owe it to ourselves and the planet to make a more conscientious effort to recycle paper in the future.
Can Post It Notes Be Recycled?
According to 3M, you can recycle Post-it Notes the same way you’d recycle any other type of paper. However, some waste collectors don’t accept them because of the fluorescent color or adhesive on the back. This varies from state to state, so be sure to ask your local recycler if they accept “mixed paper.”
3M is also making strides to be more eco-friendly by using a 67% plant-based adhesive on Post-its. Do you want to do your part? Encourage your office to start recycling if they don’t already. Close to 90% of the waste in a typical office can be recycled, which means your team can contribute to a greener planet!
Are Post It Notes Compostable?
Post-it Notes can be composted since the adhesive on the back isn’t toxic. You can also throw cardboard, feathers, hair, dryer lint, wine corks, and even latex balloons in your compost bin!
This infographic shows you how to set up a compost bin in your backyard. You can start getting rid of Post-it Notes as well as other waste items in your house!
Here’s how to set up a compost bin in your backyard:
- Step One: Build your bin out of wooden planks in well-drained soil. The bin should be open at the top and bottom.
- Step Two: Fill your bin with a 6-inch layer of “brown” matter, which includes things like cardboard, dead leaves, branches, pinecones, sawdust, paper egg cartons, tissues, newspapers, and used sticky notes.
- Step Three: Fill your bin with a 2 to 3-inch layer of “green” matter, which includes things like vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags.
- Step Four: Add water until it’s moist, like a damp sponge.
- Step Five: Repeat the layering until you’re all the way to the top.
If you’re not familiar, compositing is when you use waste products to create nutrient rich organic matter. It’s a great way to enrich the soil in your garden and help plants grow. Plus, it’s an eco-friendly way to dispose of your used Post-its and other waste products!
What Can I Do With Extra Sticky Notes?
It’s always better to repurpose or upcycle rather than throwing items in the recycling bin. Thankfully, there are plenty of creative ways you can reuse extra or scribbled on sticky notes!
Here are some ideas:
Use Them as Drink Coasters
Turn a used Post-it into a makeshift coaster. This is a good way to keep the table free from rings during office boardroom meetings.
Remove Lint From Your Clothes
Even if your Post-it Note is written on, you can still use the adhesive! Store a bunch of old sticky notes in a sealable bag, and keep them with you for removing lint from your clothes.
Are you tackling some home improvement projects? Stick a Post-it to the wall under your drill to collect sawdust and other debris. Clean up has never been easier!
Make Party Decorations
Host an awesome, budget-friendly party by reusing old sticky notes as décor. You can cut them up to make confetti, string them together to create a bright banner, or weave them into a wreath for the holidays.
Create a Box
Fold the sides of the sticky note together to form a little origami box. You can use it to hold miscellaneous office supplies like rubber bands and paper clips.
Mark Your Page
A used sticky note makes an excellent bookmark. Keep one handy when you’re reading, and replace it with a new one as soon as it gets wrinkled up or torn.
Temporarily Child-Proof Your House
Kids love getting into all kinds of things! If you’re babysitting for the weekend, use a couple of sticky notes to block the wall sockets.
If you have sensitive eyes and you’re trying to sleep, use a sticky note to cover the light from your alarm clock or cable box. Bonus points if you try this in your car to block the dashboard lights!
How Long Do Sticky Notes Stick?
Post-it Notes are designed to stick forever if they’re on a computer monitor, wall, or any other smooth surface. Generic sticky note brands, on the other hand, may fall if there’s too much wind, or if the adhesive on the back isn’t very strong.
Do you have to stick your Post-its to a rough surface? Try Post-it Extreme Notes! They’re tough as nails and designed to handle a variety of harsh conditions. You can stick them to refrigerators, containers in the freezer, construction tools, wood, paint cans, and more!
How Do You Make Sticky Notes Sticky Again?
If your sticky note is no longer sticking, try to use double sided tape on the back. This is a temporary solution if you still need to see the note that’s written on the paper.
You can also extend the life of your Post-it Notes by:
Not writing on the entire note
Start your note at the very top and write left to right the way you would on normal paper. Scratch off that item when it’s been taken care of, and write your next note underneath.
Using the back
While the back of a Post-it isn’t sticky, you can still use it to jot down your notes. If you want it to stick, simply use a piece of double sided tape.
Peeling them correctly
Most people peel sticky notes from the bottom to the top. However, the adhesive will actually be stronger if you peel them from left to right!
Choosing the right time to use them
Your phone can be just as handy for reminders as a sticky note. With that in mind, you don’t have to jot everything down on the paper!
It’s better for the planet to get as much life from your Post-it Notes as you possibly can! Don’t be shy about using the back, or using double sided tape to make them sticky again. You’re not being cheap. You’re being smart and eco-friendly!
Are Sticky Notes Toxic?
Sticky notes are not toxic, which is why they can be composted and sometimes recycled.
Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, invented the sticky microspheres on the back of Post-its over 50 years ago. These were made safely in a lab and were designed to not be harmful to you or the environment.
Why Do We Use Sticky Notes?
Many things have gone digital, but we still use sticky notes because they’re fast and accessible. Our minds are always churning, with the average person having between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts every single day. It’s easy to forget the important stuff, which is why we turn to sticky notes to keep us on track.
Sticky notes can also be used for making a difference. Case in point, CNN ran a report in 2020 about students at Golden High School in Denver. Instead of writing mean messages on the bathroom stalls, the girls in the school wrote positive, uplifting messages like “you are loved” and “you have a future” on sticky notes. This was an effort to improve the mental health of their classmates.
In the end, sticky notes can be both useful and powerful. It’s perfectly okay to use them, but be smart about how they’re disposed of when you’re done.
Our students found a way to support one another through the challenges of high school and life. These sticky notes came to represent encouragement, comfort, sympathy, laughter, and hope.Camera Bell, Executive Director for JEFFCO Public Schools in Denver, Colorado
The Bottom Line
You should never just throw your used sticky notes in the trash! If you can’t recycle them, there are plenty of ways to repurpose them instead. Be creative, go green, and do what you can to cut down on waste. Our planet thanks you!
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