It seems like a no-brainer to toss used or leftover wallpaper into your recycling bin; after all, it’s primarily made of paper. But it’s not as simple as that. Wallpaper often contains more than just paper and cannot be recycled effectively. Even though it cannot be recycled, there are ways to give old wallpaper new life.
Challenges in Recycling Wallpaper
Wallpaper isn’t just made up of paper; most wallpaper and wallcoverings also contain other mixed-in materials, such as vinyl, natural fibers, and aluminum, among others. There may be additional coatings and finishes on the wallpaper surface, such as vinyl or polythene, to make it washable. These contaminants are difficult to separate from paper fibers and cause obstructions in the recycling process. Inks, dyes, adhesives, fire-retardant agents, and other chemicals also pose problems for similar reasons. When old wallpaper and wall murals are removed from walls, it may contain traces of plaster, paint layers, or other pollutants too. All of these factors are difficult and costly to remove from the paper, making recycling wallpaper impossible.
It’s also worth noting the impact wallpaper and wall murals have on the environment. As wallpaper and wall mural scraps break down and decompose in landfills, they can create a by-product of methane gas, an aggressive greenhouse gas. The nonorganic compounds found in wallpaper coatings can enter the soil and water, affecting marine life and wild animals.
Reuse or Repurpose Wallpaper
While you can’t recycle wallpaper, you can still repurpose it. Leftover wallpaper scraps and trimmings can be upcycled in a variety of creative ways. Depending on the shape and size of leftover wallpaper, you can use it in one or more of these fun DIY projects.
1. Drawer or Shelf Liners
Although it won’t be noticeably visible, decorating shelves or lining drawers with wallpaper adds a fun and unexpected design element. Simply cut wallpaper to size and adhere to the drawer or shelf surface.
2. Wrapping Gifts
Because it’s heavier and more durable than traditional wrapping paper, wallpaper is perfect for wrapping presents. Choose a festive print or fun pattern to cover gift boxes. You can even add a coordinating tag by trimming a small piece and attaching it to the gift.
3. Recover Furniture & Small Areas
Wallpaper can be used to resurface old furniture or small areas. A peek of patterned wallpaper adds pizazz to the back of a glass-front cabinet or bookshelf. A table that’s seen better days can be given a second-chance by covering the top with a beautiful design, such as pretty floral pattern or a timeless black-and-white print. A switch-plate can be covered with smaller wallpaper scraps for a playful look.
4. Get Crafty
Bits and pieces of wallpaper can be used in your next craft project. Create some coasters and showcase them on your coffee table. Make some greeting cards or personalized stationery. Incorporate leftover wallpaper in scrapbook pages. Decoupage wooden ornaments with wallpaper for beautiful decorations. The list is endless!
Disposal of Wallpaper & Wall Murals
If all else fails, it’s okay to toss wallpaper and wall murals in the trash. However, be mindful of the environmental impact if they are not reclaimed or upcycled. If you have smaller scraps or unused portions, wallpaper can be disposed with normal household waste. If you have large amounts of wallpaper, it’s best to contact your local waste disposal association for detailed instructions on how to properly dispose of it. Alternatively, if you have large rolls of unused wallpaper or wall murals, consider donating it to a school, church, or other non-profit facility. Chances are they can use it decorate their space or put it to good use.