Green Lifestyle how to recycle binders

Published on August 9th, 2016 | by TerraCycle


How to Recycle Used Binders

Everyone has their own way of staying organized, and the good old 3-ring binder still has the affinity of all age groups. A school supply requirement on many grade school lists, binders can play a role in supporting collegiate and post-graduate study and keeping bills and tax info in order. But what happens at the end of their life? How can you recycle used binders?

how to recycle binders

Binders do bring up the issue of plastic waste, however, as these items are not easily recyclable through your curbside collection. Comprised of vinyl and metal rings, component parts that require separation, many binders are tossed into the garbage after each school year. But must binders create this much waste? The answer is no. Are vinyl binders technically recyclable? The answer is yes!

A brand on a mission to redesign and redefine office supplies

Inexpensive to make, and difficult to recycle, for a long time, binders were always made of the same thing: vinyl. In 2010, U.S. company Naked Binder acted upon their mission to create a recyclable binder made out of 100% FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified post-consumer waste board, so no trees or new wood is cut to make it.

naked binder

Tested to withstand 250,000 flexes, or 34 years of opening them 20 times a day, Naked Binder is made to last, and manages to be 100% recyclable, reducing toxic landfill by 40 million pounds a year.

Customizable for the office or for personal use, the Ohio-based brand also offers recycled pocket folders, labels and tab dividers.

How to Recycle Used Binders (You can Upcycle them too!)

To recycle a binder through curbside collection, whether it is a Naked Binder or the standard vinyl, you’ll need a flat head (standard) screwdriver to pop out the ring, which in either case goes into the metal recycling bin.

If your binder is vinyl, the next step is to take a knife and cut open the vinyl about a half inch from the edge of each panel and on the spine in order to remove the chipboard panels inside. This process separates the components for recycling; in addition to the metal rings, you now have paper chipboard and vinyl.

However, the problem with vinyl is that many municipalities do not have the infrastructure to accept this material. Call your municipality to make sure, or find a pre- and post-consumer vinyl materials recycling facility near you.

TerraCycle offers an easy, cost-effective way to recycle your old and used 3-ring binders of any type through its new free Binder Recycling Program. Shoppers can help the environment by bringing their old, empty binder to their nearest Office Depot or Office Max retail location and receive a $2 instant discount off a same-day binder purchase.

Don’t need a new binder? Drop off the binders you no longer need to clear up some space!

how to recycle binders

Upcycling Projects for Used Binders

upcycled binder purse

Upcycled binder purse from Evil Mad Scientist; click image for instructions!

Linear solutions for waste items, such as landfilling and incineration, look at waste as a useless output. Circular methods, like reuse, recycling and upcycling bring a perspective of value to waste to make it work for you.

Here are some upcycling projects to give a new life to your old and used binders:

  1. Cover with fabric to turn into a photo album or keepsake book
  2. Pop out the ringed portion to create an instant hook bar
  3. Make a personalized calendar
  4. Organize everything, from sewing supplies, DVDs and holiday clings
  5. Make a super unique and fun purse


Waste is a human invention. The humble three-ring binder included, everything is technically recyclable or can be solved through a more regenerative method than tossing it in the trash.

But with a bit of research, attention and ingenuity, you can do your part to divert landfill waste and make the world a greener place.

Images from TerraCycle, except binder purse, CC by Lenore M. Edman of, used with permission.

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About the Author

Founded in 2001, TerraCycle, Inc., is the world’s leader in the collection and repurposing of hard-to-recycle post-consumer waste, ranging from used chip bags to coffee capsules to cigarette butts. Each year, across 20 countries, TerraCycle collects and repurposes billions of pieces of waste, donating millions of dollars to schools and charities in the process. To learn more about TerraCycle or get involved in our recycling programs, please visit

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