Q. I’m an art teacher, and we use a lot of newspaper that ends up with tempera paint on it. Can we recycle it just like regular newspaper?  What about regular drawing paper with tempera paint on it? Thanks for the help.

– Tami, CT

A. Unfortunately, no, you can’t recycle those contaminated papers as you would clean ones. But here’s what’s interesting — it’s not for the reason you’re probably thinking, according to Trey Granger of eco-resource guide Earth 911.

Assuming you’re using water-based tempera, the paint itself isn’t the problem — it’s the water. Once newspaper — or any paper — gets wet, the fibers are ruined and paper mills will no longer be able to recycle it. The same goes for watercolors, finger paint, and poster paint. Paper with oil or latex paint on in should also probably be put in the trash, but you’ll want to check your local regulations to be sure. That’s always a good idea for tough recycling questions; usually the best way to find answers specific to your town is to track down your local recycling coordinator. He or she probably works for either the department of sanitation or the public works department.

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. This story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Can I recycle newspaper with paint on it?
It's not actually the paint that contaminates the paper, it's the water.