How to dispose of old or left-over wallpaper correctly

Before you can hang your lovely new wallpaper, you will of course have to remove the old one. But where can you dispose of this specific "waste"? Many of us think that old wallpaper should be taken to the paper recycling container. But that is not the right place for them, even if they are paper-based. They have to be disposed of properly. The same is true for wallpaper cut-offs and rolls that are surplus to requirements.

Wallpaper should never be considered waste paper/recyclable paper

Today's wallpaper industry offers a plethora of products with many different surface materials. Each wallpaper consists of various layers and materials. Wallpapers usually consist of a paper or non-woven carrier layer, and a surface layer which may be made from natural fibres like grass or wood, synthetic or natural textile fibres, aluminium (metal wallpapers), effect foils or glass beads. Depending on the type and design of the model, there may also be additional coatings, finishes and substances. All of these components make sorted disposal impossible, which means that old wallpapers are not recyclable. The finishes and coatings aren't always visually obvious, and as a result there is a real danger that wallpapers with paper carrier and surface layers are put into the recycling bin.

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Wallpapers that have been removed from the wall will also have been treated with glue or wallpapering paste. In addition, traces of plaster, layers of paint, mould or other pollutants may also be present.

In any case, it doesn't really matter which materials were used to manufacture the wallpaper, whether it consists mainly or completely of paper, if it has been removed from the wall and contains traces of plaster and glue, or has never been used. Because all wallpapers have one specific characteristic that rules out paper recycling: wet strength. This means that they will not, or only partially, dissolve in water. But in order to re-use paper, it needs to be completely water-soluble.

The consequence is clear: wallpaper, whether it is left on the roll or has been removed from the wall, is not recyclable.

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Wallpaper disposal - this is how it works

Depending on the amount, and the specifications of local waste control, wallpapers are categorised as residual waste, bulky waste, construction waste, or demolition waste. Here are some pointers: Small amounts can simply be put in the household waste, i.e. the residual waste bin. For larger amounts, we recommend contacting your local council; they will be able to give you more information as to your options and where to dispose of the wallpaper. There are differences from one place to another.

For instance, you might be able to buy special bin bags for your old wallpaper which will then be picked up by the weekly refuse collection service. Unused wallpaper rolls can sometimes be left with the bulky waste. Waste collection or recycling centres which accept recyclable materials as well as bulky (and other unspecified) waste are also a possibility for wallpaper disposal. They usually charge a small fee for wallpaper waste.

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In many cases, wallpaper waste is the responsibility of waste disposal associations which run refuse incineration facilities and will accept wallpaper waste free of charge or for a small fee. These facilities usually offer various sorting stations, for instance for construction site waste. (Depending on local regulations, wallpapers may be categorised as construction site waste.) The local authorities responsible for waste disposal (Waste Advice Offices) will be able to give you contact details for the waste disposal associations in your area - or simply consult the internet for local addresses.

If you put your wallpaper in the regular household bin, you should thoroughly fold up the removed strips and pieces. This will reduce the volume. Furthermore, it is advisable to put the pieces in a bin bag so that they don't end up sticking to the inside of the waste bin when it is emptied. This is also recommended if you take your wallpaper waste to an refuse incineration facility or the recycling/waste disposal centre.

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How to use wallpaper cut-offs creatively instead of throwing them away

When buying new wallpaper, it is always a good idea to add a spare roll, just in case you need to exchange a whole length or a small area due to damage or staining. For this reason, it is recommended that you do not get rid of unused rolls prematurely.

Also, left-over wallpaper offers huge creative potential. It is great for upcycling or arts and crafts projects, and can give furniture or wooden stairs a new lease of life. Why not check out our Blog where you will find lots of creative ideas. It's well worth the effort - and you'll end up with a very unique and individual result.

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If this type of project isn't your thing, you can always donate the remaining wallpaper to your local kindergarten or school, or to friends and family. And should you end up with a few of rolls of wallpaper, you might want to consider selling it.