Post-it notes.

AuthorBlock, Ben
PositionLIFE-CYCLE STUDIES - Recycled papers

Closing the Loop

With self-stick notes' various sizes, dyes, and complex adhesive, their recyclability depends on whether a given processing mill washes its paper and handles small pieces. To facilitate recycling, 3M developed its adhesive to be water-soluble. The chemical adhesive is typically flushed into the wastewater stream, along with dyes, brighteners, and bleaches. Water treatment providers have reported that sticky note contaminants are more difficult to remove than sediments or dissolved solids.


The note may not always reach its intended recycling plant. In the United States and Europe, although consumers send more of their paper to recycling centers, declining newspaper sales and cheap paper imports have lessened the demand for post-consumer paper. As a result, recovered paper is often taken from curb-side bins, baled, and shipped overseas. The trade supports global exchange of recycled products, but fossil fuel-intensive transportation is used along the way. The Confederation of European Paper Industries expects the economics of recycled paper may change as global paper demand increases 25 percent by 2020.


For consumers who seek to minimize paper use, 3M offers 100-percent recycled Post-it Notes--30 percent is derived from consumer items and 70 percent from manufacturing or industrial waste. The company says that a 100-percent post-consumer waste option is possible, but it does not want to "hog" the limited supply of high-quality recycled paper. Redi-Tag, a California-based supply company, offers their notes with 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper. Another choice: Fold the note and use the back.



The modern office seems incomplete without guidance from three-inch squares of yellow paper. Placed on telephones, refrigerators, and wherever the eye may wander, the ubiquitous self-stick note has aided millions of forgetful minds. While also minimizing much face-to-face dialogue, for better or worse, the notes have left an indelible mark on the history of communication.

They began in 1980, when a St. Paul, Minnesota, choir member's hymnal...

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