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Printing on Your Backside

Brenda from Perryville, Missouri writes:

Can you recycle paper that has been printed on one side, for printing on the backside, without harming the printer?

Hi, Brenda.  What a good question.  I recently commented in another thread that I should start giving my own “green” beliefs more consideration when I write these articles.

We all seem to be more and more conscious every day about how important it is for us to conserve.  To, in the jargon of the recycling movement, “reduce, reuse, recycle”.  The reason that the three words are organized like that is because reducing is better than reusing, reusing is better than recycling, recycling is better than doing nothing.  The answer to “can you recycle paper that has been printed on one side” is yes, any paper can be recycled, that is broken down and made into new paper.  There is, of course, an energy cost behind doing this, and a significant amount of the pulp (something like 60%) is rendered useless in the process.

What you’re asking about is reusing the paper, which is infinitely better.  Too many of us, myself included, are guilty of printing something on a single side and then tossing the paper into the trash or the recycling bin.

The answer to your question is yes, the paper can be reused, provided that the ink on the printed side is completely dry.  One thing to watch out for is that if you have printed an image on the paper, it may create a paper jam in your printer as it rolls through.  The higher the quality of the image, the more ink was used to print it and the higher the possibility of a paper jam.  So just watch your printer closely as it goes through to make sure that you don’t suffer a jam.  This issue becomes worse with low quality paper than high quality.

One other thing to watch for is what’s called “bleed” or “bleed-through”.  This is where whatever’s on the backside of the paper shows through onto the side that you’re printing on.  As with the jamming issue, this becomes worse with high quality images or low quality paper.

I hope that this helps, and thanks for the great environmental question.

~Randal Schaffer