What happens when a toilet paper tube gets recycled?

Learn what happens to a toilet paper tube after it gets collected from your curbside recycling bin, and discover the fascinating process behind how it gets turned into another toilet paper tube—or something else entirely!

First things first: Recycle that tube!

It can be tempting to throw an empty toilet paper tube in the trash can—after all, it’s hard enough to remember to replace that empty roll with a new one! But by putting a recycling bin in your bathroom, it’s easy to remember to recycle your empty tube.

What happens to the tube after it’s picked up?

After your local recycling truck picks up the toilet paper tube (along with empty shampoo bottles, empty mouthwash bottles, and other items that your household recycles) it is sorted at a sorting facility. Then, accompanied by other paper and paperboard products, the tube travels to a specific type of mill whose function it is to create recycled paperboard.

What happens at the mill?

At the mill, the toilet paper tube is mixed with water and other collected paper to create paper pulp. This pulp is then inserted into a machine that acts as a very large blender. This blending machine transforms the paper pulp into something called a “paper slurry.”

What happens to the paper slurry?

At this point in the recycled toilet paper tube’s journey, the paper slurry is washed and refined. The newly cleaned and decontaminated paper slurry then travels through several screens. These screens are specially designed to allow water to drain away from the paper slurry, so only the paper fibers are left.

After the water is drained away, the paper fibers are pressed and dried to create very large sheets of paper. The dry paper is then stacked or wound up to form large rolls—depending on the processes of the recycled paperboard mill—and made ready for its next journey.

What happens to the paperboard after it leaves the mill?

The recycled paperboard produced at the mill travels to a converting facility or printing plant. When it arrives at its destination, it is turned into another toilet paper tube—or another product, like an overnight envelope! Hopefully, after this new product is purchased and used, it too will become recycled, and the process will begin anew.