Just Ask Us:  Do you have to remove staples and paper clips before recycling paper? by Emma Hamer February 24, 2020 - Wisconsin State Journal

Q: Do I have to remove staples and paper clips before recycling paper?

A: Ideally, paper clips and staples should be removed, but recycling centers and paper mills can handle having some in the paper stream, said Bryan Johnson, city of Madison recycling coordinator.

“In a perfect world, we would all remove anything that’s not paper from the paper,” Johnson said. “That’s really what we should aim for.”

Although the recycling machinery can handle staples and paper clips, Johnson said he doesn’t want people to think it’s OK to contaminate recycling materials. For instance, residents should tear the pages out of spiral notebooks instead of throwing them into the recycling along with the metal ring.

“We can’t have a quarter million people in Madison kind of going, ‘Eh, someone else will take care of it,’” Johnson said. “That makes that error rate huge.”
Pellitteri said preventing paper from being contaminated with food and trash is a “much larger concern” because that can ruin a large amount of paper.

Johnson said it’s important for the paper to be clean, so that the recyclers can re-sell the material.

“The cleaner the material that we give them, the easier it is to sell, the better the whole system works,” Johnson said. “Because without that commerce piece, without them being able to sell that material, recycling doesn’t work.”