Is Thermal Paper Recyclable?


You probably don’t think much about the label when you buy a drink labeled with thermal paper. It’s worth noticing because it will help you decide how to dispose of the bottle once you finish drinking your beverage.

Thermal paper is different from traditional paper because it reacts to heat and changes color when exposed. It’s frequently used in restaurants and cafes because it’s cheaper than other types of labeling materials like plastic impact labels or silk-screening labels, which require special machines to create.

Here are some answers to whether or not thermal paper is recyclable, where you can take it for recycling, and why this type of paper can be challenging to recycle.

What Is Thermal Paper?

Thermal paper is a type of paper used for printing receipts, labels, and tickets. It reacts to heat and changes color when it comes in contact with it, which makes it useful for time-sensitive labeling.

The paper is inexpensive but has a shorter lifespan than other paper types. Thermal paper is commonly used in the food and beverage industry, as well as in gas stations and convenience stores, where it’s used to label products like food, drink, and tobacco products.

It’s also used in check-out counters at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail stores. Thermal paper can vary in color, which determines how it reacts to heat.

Orange thermal paper, for example, changes to black when it comes in contact with heat. Yellow thermal paper changes to blue, while green thermal paper turns red.

Is Thermal Paper Recyclable?

The short answer is yes. Fortunately, most thermal papers are made from recycled paper. This means it’s more likely to be recyclable than other paper types.

However, not all thermal papers are made from recycled paper. It’s essential to look for a label on the paper that says “100% recycled paper” or something similar to ensure that you’re recycling the correct type of paper.

In some cases, the paper itself can be recycled if the wax coating can be removed from the paper with a solvent. The solvent is then filtered and reused, while the wax is discarded. The carbon black pigment used in thermal paper is another story, though.

Hence, it may be possible to separate the pigment from the paper fibers. But in most cases, it’s considered too difficult to tackle. So, while the paper itself is recyclable, the carbon black pigment is not. 

When you drop off your thermal paper at a recycling facility, you’ll likely be asked to separate the paper and the pigment before dropping it off. It’s a good idea to check with your local recycling facility to find out how they handle this type of paper.

Problems Associated With BPA and BPS

Thermal paper has traditionally been made with BPA (Bisphenol A), a chemical compound sometimes used in plastic manufacturing. BPA has been linked to health concerns, including possible risks to fetal development, allergic reactions, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

BPA gets released into the air as a gas when recycling thermal paper. BPA is also water-soluble, meaning it leaks from the paper when it’s washed, which means that when BPA gets released into the air during thermal paper recycling, it can end up in the water supply.

BPA is also complicated to filter out of water, which means it’s almost impossible to prevent BPA from ending up in the water supply when recycling thermal paper.

Why is Thermal Paper Difficult to Recycle?

BPA aside, thermal paper is also difficult to recycle because of how it’s made.

Thermal paper is made from multiple materials, making recycling difficult. First, the paper is often coated with dyes, inks, and synthetic resins.

Thermal paper is also coated with wax, which helps it change color with heat exposure.

Finally, the paper is laminated with a plastic film to make it more durable and reduce leakage. The plastic film makes thermal paper more difficult to recycle, as it’s harder to separate from the other materials found in thermal paper.

Some recycling facilities can recycle thermal paper, but many thermal papers—especially those coated with dyes and inks—are challenging to recycle.

This means it may be best to avoid thermal paper and use a different type of labeling material. However, it’s important to note that each facility will have different rules regarding which types of paper they can recycle.

Best Way To Dispose of Thermal Paper

If you’d like to dispose of thermal paper, the best way to do it is to tear it into tiny pieces and put it in the trash. It can’t be composted because the wax coating will prevent it from breaking down, and it can’t be recycled because of the carbon black pigment.

A good rule of thumb is to tear it up so that it’s small enough to fit in a coin slot, as per guidance from most cities. If you’re at a restaurant and you need to fill out a paper receipt, you can tear it up and put it in the trash once you’re done.


Thermal paper is different from traditional paper because it reacts to heat and changes color when exposed. It’s frequently used in restaurants and cafes because it’s cheaper than other types of labeling materials like plastic impact labels or silk-screening labels.

Thermal paper is a thin, almost paper-like material heated to create an image on its surface. It’s most commonly used for things like restaurant receipts, lottery tickets, gas pump receipts, and price tickets at grocery stores.

Want to learn more about thermal paper? Check out our extensive inventory here at Paper Rolls Plus.