Recycling Paper Shipping Sacks

Recycling Paper Shipping Sacks

Do you package or receive food products in paper shipping sacks? Recycle them!

Paper shipping sacks, often called multiwall sacks, provide efficient and economical packaging for a wide range of food, agricultural, construction, industrial and consumer products. And, because they are made of paper, they often can be recycled after they are emptied. Recycling clean, unlined food paper shipping sacks helps reduce the amount of waste requiring landfill disposal and provides an exceptionally good source of fiber for manufacturing new cardboard boxes and other paper packaging products, as well as other paper products — even paper towels.

It’s Easy!

Unlined sacks containing food ingredients and products used in food manufacturing and processing industries are easiest to recycle. These sacks do not have plastic film linings or contain objectionable residues when shaken clean.

The first step: Separate the used paper shipping sacks from non-recyclable materials. This is one of the most important things you can do to increase the sacks’ value in the recycling stream.

Collect unlined food paper shipping sacks together with corrugated cardboard boxes (also known as old corrugated containers, or OCC). These sacks and boxes can be commingled, baled and collected together.

This is important because most unlined food paper shipping sacks are used in facilities or businesses that already recycle OCC. For many businesses, this will be the easiest way to keep sacks out of the landfill because so many businesses already separate their corrugated boxes for recycling. Clean unlined shipping sacks that have been used to transport food or food ingredients should be placed in containers along with corrugated boxes for recycling. Some businesses already recycle their paper shipping sacks this way, and paper recyclers are already familiar with this practice.

There is absolutely no need to pay for landfill disposal of clean, used unlined food paper shipping sacks. If a facility uses a sufficient quantity of unlined paper shipping sacks that warrants separate processing, those sacks could possibly have even greater value than if mixed with corrugated boxes. To understand the specific requirements, contact your local paper recycler or waste hauler. PSSMA can also help you locate paper recyclers that handle paper shipping sacks. Contact us if you’d like assistance getting started on a sack recycling program.

The Bottom Line

Recycling used paper shipping sacks can improve your bottom line. Separating them from non-recyclable waste is often all it takes to get started, keeping them out of the landfill. Pick-up of used corrugated cardboard boxes for recycling is widely available to businesses throughout the US, and clean, unlined food sacks can be recycled along with them. Use PSSMA’s guide and the advice of your local paper recycler to begin recycling your empty paper shipping sacks. You can feel good that you are providing a valuable resource to US paper mills that collectively are striving to recycle 70% of the paper used in the US by 2020, while you are keeping material out of landfills and improving your own bottom line.

Get More Details

PSSMA has issued a guide to assist users of products packaged in paper shipping sacks evaluate the potential for recycling used sacks, and for using the industry recycling emblem. To download the Recycling Guide, select the link at the bottom of this page.  And to learn what types of paper shipping sacks are most valuable (and will earn you the most revenue when recovered), click here: Paper Shipping Sack Recycling Value Ranking for Businesses.


Additional Resources

The Paper Shipping Sack Recycling Value Ranking for Businesses

Paper shipping sacks are efficiently designed to provide the optimum properties for product protection while using the minimum amount of packaging material. To achieve maximum strength per amount of paper used, the fibers in the papers used to construct paper shipping sacks are among the very strongest in the paper industry. When these fibers can be extracted from recycled sacks, they are extremely useful in adding strength and other performance parameters to other recycled packaging, such as corrugated cardboard containers containing recycled materials. However, when non-recyclable components, such as films, wet-strength paper additives, and significant concentrations of string and tape closures are included, recycling becomes more challenging, and the recovered material consequently becomes less valuable for recycling because of the additional processing required. Most mills are able to handle printed sacks, which may be included with used corrugated cardboard boxes.

While local conditions may vary, making it imperative to consult your local paper recycler or waste hauler, the list below provides a general guide from the most valuable to least valuable mix of used sacks.

1. Most Valuable
Unlined, clean sacks without closure tapes or strings not used to package hazardous chemical or other materials.  Most sacks containing food or agricultural ingredients are in this category.

  1. Large quantities may be bundled for separate recycling and could command a premium price over other grades.
  2. Small and medium quantities of clean used sacks should be segregated and placed with corrugated cardboard containers for recycling in the OCC stream.
2. Valuable
A mix of unlined, cleaned sacks not used to package hazardous chemical or other materials, which contain few sacks with string or closures. Check locally for limits. Recycle acceptable mixes with old corrugated boxes.


3. Less Valuable
Clean sacks, not used to package hazardous chemical or other objectionable materials, which contain plastic films or plastic liners or high concentrations of string or tape closures. Commingled lined and unlined sacks generally are not suitable for recycling, since recycled paper mills cannot handle feedstocks which contain significant quantities of plastic film-lined sacks. The recycling option for lined sacks is generally limited to export markets.


4. Not Recyclable
  1. Sacks used to package hazardous chemical or other objectionable materials which would require special handling or storage.
  2. Sacks containing excessive residues.  Used sacks should always be shaken clean before being segregated for recycling.

Recycling Information Kit

Recycling paper shipping sacks helps improve the paper industry’s recovery rate and better yet, it reduces disposal fees and even earns revenue for users. Paper shipping sacks used for food or food ingredients can now be recycled in the same collection with corrugated cardboard boxes (OCC). A complete guide to recycling these sacks can be downloaded here. It includes instructions for identifying sacks that meet recycling criteria, use of the recycling symbol marking such bags, and more. For even more information, email us at

For Users of Paper Shipping Sacks_ Download the Recycling Info Kit Here

(Adobe PDF File)



For Recycling Companies_ Download the Info Sheet Here

(Adobe PDF File)

Recycling FAQs

Did you know that paper shipping sacks can be recycled with corrugated cardboard? Here’s a handy FAQ to tell you everything you need to know to get started!

Download the PSSMA Recycling FAQs Here

(Adobe PDF File)

Recycling Potential Savings Estimator Tool

This page contains the Paper Sack Recycling Potential Savings Estimator. This downloadable Excel Sheet calculates potential saving for recycling clean, used multiwall sacks not containing hazardous or objectionable materials as a percentage of the sack’s unit selling value. See instructions provided on sheet. Click on the link below to download the Excel file.

(Microsoft Excel Workbook)

Recycling Infographic

Get paper shipping sack recycling information by the numbers with the below infographic.

Download the PSSMA Recycling Infographic Here

(Adobe PDF File)