How to Recycle Spiral Notebooks: The Complete Guide

How to Recycle Spiral Notebooks: The Complete Guide

By
Dennis Kamprad

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In an effort to embrace an always more sustainable living, it is normal to find specific materials and objects that are seemingly non–recyclable. Notebooks, for example, can be useful, but their lifespan is not so long. So, what can you do with them after you have written on the last page?

Spiral notebooks are recyclable. You will need to separate the paper from the metal or plastic coil and understand what each part is composed of. Then, you can recycle each component as you would with anything else. Upcycling the spiral and deciding to go paperless are also eco-friendly choices.

Spiral notebooks are not difficult to recycle, but they might require a little more attention than other objects. Here’s all you need to know. 

Understand the Components of Your Notebook

Spiral notebooks can be recycled, but special attention should be paid to the materials that make up each notebook component. Indeed, each notebook is different, and some are designed to be more eco friendly than others. 

So, before anything else, check what the materials that compose your notebook are. You may find that the coil is made in metal and the papers in recycled paper. Alternatively, both the cover and the coil might be made in plastic – in this case, finding out about the type of plastic it is made of can help you make an informed decision. 

Below, we’ll see in detail how to recycle each component of the notebook. However, if you are in a rush, you can just check out the video below for a summary.

Remove the Plastic Cover

Many notebooks have a plastic cover to protect the first page or a cardboard cover. Ensure that yours don’t have one or, if it does, it is removed from the notebook. 

If it is in plastic, you should be able to find instructions regarding how to recycle it on it or at the back of your notebook. It is crucial to find this information before throwing the cover away, as certain plastic types are non-recyclable. 

Depending on the symbol present on the cover, you will be able to determine whether you can recycle the plastic cover or not. It is good practice to clean it thoroughly before attempting to recycle it. 

Remove Any Staples, Pins, Clips, and Stickers

If you wish to recycle the papers in the right container, make sure there are no plastic pins or metal staples and clips. This is crucial to ensure that all materials are in the right recycle bin and won’t interfere with the recycling process

Indeed, if in your town or area the government has opted for mixed recycling bins (those in which you can throw all materials that can be recycled, including paper, carton, plastic, metal, and glass), you might be tempted to throw the pages as they are. 

However, even in this case, metal pins will need to be removed by the professionals who sort out the recyclable waste. So, you can speed up the process and remove them. From here, you can either reuse them or throw them in the right bin.  

Is the Coil Made of Metal or Plastic?

Check whether the coil is made of metal or plastic, as this could influence where to place it. Certain, usually more advanced recycling systems allow you to throw several materials away in the same bin, even still bound together. Then, during the recycling process, the metal is separated from the paper. 

However, you need to ensure that it is okay for your town’s recycling system for you to leave it all bound together as it is. 

Generally, if it is made of metal, you can throw it away in the metal recycling bin. Alternatively, if it is made of plastic, you should refer to the notions seen above and check whether that particular type of plastic is indeed recyclable. 

Examine Any Cardboard Cover

Cardboard covers can be recycled alongside the paper. However, since each recycling system might work in a slightly different way, it is recommendable to speak to your local recycling center before throwing the cardboard in the same bin as the paper.

Recycle the Papers

Lastly, you should recycle the papers in your notebook. Recycling paper is easy since you can just mix it with your other recyclable paper or office paper. 

Additionally, if your notebook has recycled papers and used vegetable or soy ink on it, you might decide to put the paper in your compost bin.

Removing the Coil From the Notebook

Depending on the coil you are dealing with, there are two methods you could use to remove it from the notebook pages. Here is an overview of the common strategies to use:

  • Unwind a spiral notebook – secure the notebook at the edge of a table with the coil hanging out of it. Using pliers, straighten the ends and start pulling the coil out of the holes. 
  • Notebook with individual rings – some notebooks might have individual rings (plastic or metal) for each hole. In this case, you can just pull the coil out of each ring, freeing the papers. 

You can also find alternative options to remove the coil of a notebook in the video below:

Upcycling Instead of Recycling: What You Can Do With the Coil

Up-cycling or reusing the coil can be an excellent way to reduce waste, but it can be tricky if you are not a fan of art and crafts. Here are some suggestions to give a second life to your notebook’s coil:

  • Use a wire cutter to cut the coil into smaller pieces. You can then bed each piece to create hooks and hangers. You might use them to hold up Christmas decorations, hanging pictures, or hold cables.
  • With the same coil pieces, you can create homemade paper clips by bending to form a spiral-like shape.
  • If you love to create jewelry, you can use the coil as free material for your next design.

If you are not so much into arts and crafts, you might decide to donate the coil to a school or copy center. They can then reuse it to bind a new notebook!

While recycling and upcycling each notebook component is a great way to look after the planet, there is another way to go green – you might decide to leave notebooks behind altogether. 

Naturally, deciding to go paperless might require a drastic change in your habits, but it can help you reduce the amount of wastage created. 

Indeed, you can start using the notes on your phone, tablet, or laptop to reduce the amount of paper bought and used. Some advantages of this choice include the fact that virtual notes are more affordable, easier to have with you at all times, safer, and better organized. And, of course, they are a greener way to write down everything you need to.

Final Thoughts

Spiral notebooks are an everyday accessory that many of us rely on at school, in the office, or even during our free time. If you wish to live more sustainably, the chances are that you have wondered how you can recycle the pile of old spiral notebooks piling up in your cupboards. 

For the project, start by separating each component and recycle as follows:

  • Any plastic cover – plastic
  • Paper and cardboard – paper
  • Metal coil – recycle in metal or upcycle
  • Plastic coil – plastic

Ensure you have checked that the plastic used for some of the components is effectively recyclable. 

Stay impactful,



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