This question was originally answered in Plenty magazine. 

Q. I just read your response to "Can I recycle newspaper with art supply paint on it?" You said that once paper gets wet it is no good to the mills. Does that mean that all those bags/bundles of paper that people put out for recycling the night before pickup are no good for recycling if they got wet? Should we put out our recycling in plastic bags?


– Susan Meles, N.J.


A. Although we at Plenty are never, ever grouchy — not even when election day stress has all but put us over the edge and we’re about ready to take a sledgehammer to that car whose alarm has been blaring outside our NYC window for the past hour — we do have one thing in common with Oscar the Grouch. We love trash. We love treating it lovingly, and doing all sorts of loving and creative things with it — things like recycling, composting and repurposing. And, yes, protecting it from the elements.

It’s true that wet paper is tricky for recyclers, so do take a little care to make sure that what you send them is dry, says Trey Granger of Earth 911. The best thing to do is simply keep an eye on the weather forecast and hold off putting your bundled paper out too early if rain looks likely.

Don’t go overboard, though — you shouldn’t put your paper waste in a plastic bag unless your particular curbside program asks you to. Paper set out in plastic bags is likely to be confused with trash and sent to the landfill, which will totally negate all of your careful efforts to keep it dry. Anyway, a little morning dew won’t ruin the whole bundle. Your friendly recycler will probably just remove the wet outer layer in order to get to the remaining dry part.

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. The story was added to in August 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

See also:

Recycled paper products

Can you recycle wet paper?
A little dew won't hurt it, but paper that is actually wet is not easily recycled (and likely won't be).