Can You Recycle Paper with Acrylic Paint on It?

Unfortunately, you can’t recycle paper with acrylic paint on it at home.

Do you love painting with acrylic paints and want to know if your painted paper can be recycled?

You may feel a bit disappointed to know that paper with acrylic paint on it can’t be recycled. Luckily for you, paper with acrylic paint on it can be reused – hope this brings a sort of relief.

For recycling to be achievable, some elements or compounds must either be intact or present in the material to be recycled.

For instance, the fibers in paper are important and necessary for recycling. Once these fibers are lost or damaged in the paper, the paper is rendered unsuitable for recycling.

In the case of paper painted with acrylic paint, the fibers are damaged. Acrylic paint is water-based and during painting, the water used in thinning or preparing the acrylic paint(s) will wet the paper.

can i recycle paper with acrylic paint in it

This will also break down the fibers in the paper, making the paper unsuitable for recycling.

Once the paper is wet and the fibers are damaged, the fibers can’t be restored even after the paper dries. Hence DIY recycling is impossible with paper with acrylic paint on it.

It’s not the acrylic paint that renders the paper unsuitable for recycling per se but the water in it.

This also applies to wet papers, papers used in tempera painting, and/or papers painted with watercolors. They are all unfit for recycling.

Should You Recycle Paper with Crayon on It?

Since crayons are not water-based, it’s normal to ask if you should recycle a paper with crayon painting on it. Though it’s possible, I don’t recommend that you recycle papers with crayon drawings. Here are my reasons:

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Crayons are sticks of colored wax. Using them for painting on paper gives the paper some level of wax consistency, which subsequently makes the paper resistant to water.

During the recycling process of paper, the paper must be broken down by the water. But the wax consistency created by the crayon:

  • won’t leave the paper completely during the process, and
  • will make the paper partially impermeable by water.

This will then lead to improper recycling of the paper. This is not so with papers colored with colored pencils because they are easily recyclable.

Nevertheless, papers with crayon painting on them can still be recycled using a special process, which involves a complete reprocessing of the colored paper.

This is usually done at the recycling factory. This process involves having the papers boiled in a special chemical mixture. The chemical mixture melts the crayon wax on the paper without affecting the fibers in the paper.

During this process, the wax separates from the papers and floats on the surface of the mixture, where they are removed. The reprocessed papers are then extracted to be recycled.

What Kinds of Paper Can’t Be Recycled?

Not all kinds of paper can be recycled. Some are better disposed of in the trash can and some can only be reused than recycled. Here are the kinds of paper that can’t be recycled:

  • Paper painted with acrylic paint: The water used in thinning or preparing the acrylic paint can damage or shorten the fibers in the paper, hence, making the paper unable to be recycled.
  • Toilet paper: Most toilet paper is made from recycled paper. As a result, the fibers in tissue papers are already too short to have them recycled. However, the cardboard roll in the tissue paper can be recycled.
  • Paper towels: Paper towels can’t also be recycled as they are often dirty with food stains, grease, paints, and so on. And like tissue papers, their fibers are also too short.
  • Wax paper: This kind of paper is used for baking, handling food, and/or delivering food. It’s not recyclable because it’s coated in wax. Instead, it can be cleaned and reused.
  • Shredded paper: Once shredded, the fibers in the paper are shortened and are less useful in the recycling process.
  • Stickers and sticky notes: Papers with adhesives on them can’t be recycled. The adhesives on them make the papers get caught in the recycling machines during the process.
  • Laminated papers: It is more stressful and expensive to recycle papers laminated with either plastic or aluminum. They are better off incinerated or landfilled.
  • Wrapping gift paper: Most wrapping papers have glitters, sellotapes, ribbons, paints, foils, or other decorations on them which can’t be recycled. Except you can carefully remove all these additions completely, I don’t recommend recycling wrapping papers.
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Also, metallic wrapping papers are not recyclable. To ascertain if a wrapping paper is made of paper or not, squeeze it.

If the wrapping paper remains squeezed, it’s made of paper, you can recycle it as long as it doesn’t have any glitter or additions.

  • Thermal papers (receipts): Thermal papers contain bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a contaminant in the recycling process, it can contaminate the whole batch of recycled papers when packed among papers to be recycled.
  • Juice, milk, and cereal boxes: These boxes are coated on the inside with thin layers of plastic, aluminum, or something that make them non-recyclable.
  • Paper painted with crayon: Crayons are also wax and will make the paper resistant to water, which is required to break down the paper.
  • Paper painted with watercolor: Just as with acrylic paints, the water used in watercolor will damage or shorten the fibers in the paper. This makes the paper unrecyclable.
  • Painted papers: Generally, all painted papers are not recyclable. For paints that are not water-based, they can’t be broken down by water. During the recycling process, water won’t be able to penetrate the paper properly to break it down.

For paints that are water-based, the water would have shortened or damaged the fibers in the paper during painting, making it unsuitable for recycling.


You can recycle paper with acrylic paint on it as long as you remove the paint first. The same goes for other kinds of paints. Once the paint is removed, the paper can be recycled like any other paper.

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However, there are some kinds of paper that can’t be recycled no matter what. These include toilet paper, paper towels, wax paper, and so on.

If you’re not sure whether a paper can be recycled or not, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw it in the trash.

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