Can You Recycle Hanging File Folders?

File holders are essential office supplies, particularly when you are big on organization. Of course, sometimes, you may not have much of a choice if you have a lot of office files in your care. However, it makes it easy to pinpoint the one you need and within the shortest time.

It also helps that they are pretty handy and relatively affordable. Essentially, you will end up paying a small fee for something that saves so much space and stress. However, despite the benefits of having hanging files, they are very susceptible to wear and tear.

It means that you cannot use them for a very long time, as they are made from paper and can easily get ripped. Of course, you will have to dispose of them eventually, and this is where we come in.

You may be wondering how to go about getting rid of your useless file holders. Well, this blog post intends to show you the numerous ways you can and also inform you of whether or recycling is one of them.

Are Hanging File Folders Recyclable?

You may be in a bit of a pickle over whether you can recycle your hanging file folders. Other office supplies sure maybe recyclable, so you may think hanging file folders are too. Well, you are right! Hanging file folders are recyclable.

They are made from paper, and sometimes, clips, plastics and staples. So, of course, you will have to separate those materials if you intend to recycle the folders. The reason is that most recycling centers do not accept a mix of materials, and that may disqualify you from using their services.

But, additionally, even if they take materials like that, you will be doing them a huge favor because they will have to separate the combination of materials.

Ideally, you will be recycling the paper aspect of the hanging file holders. Most recycling centers, if not all, accept paper waste. It may be the most manageable waste to recycle. You simply have to ensure that you are taking just the paper part of the file holders to the recycling center.

Now, on to the other parts of the folders. Well, you may have to throw them in the refuse bin because most of the time, they are just tiny pieces. Small pieces hardly ever go in the recycle bin because they can get stuck in the machine and damage it, which is why most recycling centers do not accept them. However, before you conclude on that, inquire at your recycling center.

To save time and resources, you may want to gather the file folders over time. Chances are you will have to replace them at intervals, so why not save yourself frequent trips to the recycling center by gathering them and toting them to the recycling bin all at once.

Can You Recycle Colored File Folders?

Well, the majority of file folders come in a variety of colors. They make organization a lot easier, as you can sort based on color. If you use colored file folders in your office, then you do not have to worry about recycling them. Most recycling centers accept colored file folders.

You will have to prepare the folders for the recycling bin. Remove every other material that is not made from paper, as recycling centers do not accept combined materials.

Now, a bone of contention in recycling colored paper is that the color could contaminate the other papers in the recycling machine. So what the workers at the recycling centers do is that they separate the papers that are colored and recycle them together. That way, the chances of contamination are reduced drastically.

Can You Recycle File Folders With Metals?

Most file folders come with metals attached. The metals make it easier to secure the papers and prevent them from falling out. In most cases, the metals are small ones.

Recycling centers never recycle different materials together. The essence of recycling is to ensure that materials do not go to waste, and as such, only similar materials get recycled together. That way, the chances of pollution or contamination are reduced.

Now, when you intend to recycle your file folders, you certainly cannot take them down to the recycling center just as they are. Instead, you have to separate them from the metallic parts. That way, you are making things easier for those working at the centers.

You cannot take the metallic parts to a recycling center if they are small metals because the machine can catch one or two and get damaged if they get lodged in it. So yes, items as small as the metals in file holders can destroy a recycling machine that costs thousands of dollars. Now imagine the amount that will be spent on repairing it because of that small mistake. 

The paper and metals should not be recycled together; just the paper can the recycled. You will have to throw the metal in the dustbin. Of course, metals are non-biodegradable. They will not decompose.

They will end up sitting in the landfills for decades; however, they will release little to no toxins into the atmosphere. The only disadvantage is that they will take up space.

How to Recycle Your Folders?

Before you take your old file folders to the recycling center, you will have to prepare them. The essence of this is to prevent any damage that may occur to the machine due to combined materials like plastic stickers, office pins, staples and the metallic parts of the folders.

In preparing them, you may examine them to be entirely sure that you cannot use them anymore. They should only go to the bin when they have absolutely no purpose. It does not necessarily have to be an official purpose; if you can use the folders for anything, you may want to save them.

Next, you will have to remove all the paper clips, staples and plastic stickers attached. If you do not do this, you risk contaminating the materials in the recycling bin or even damaging the machine itself. It may leave the folders looking all messed up, but that is inconsequential as the essence is to prevent them from causing havoc.

You will also have to remove the index tab and any metal attached to it. Modern folders now come with plastic instead of metals, but that does not mean you will not find folders that have metals. Also, ensure that you remove any tape, wax or glue on the paper to prevent contamination.

Lastly, separate the materials. They cannot be recycled together, so the paper goes in the recycling bin while the others may go in the trash can. However, it is mainly dependent on the policies at your recycling center. Some may have provisions for the other materials, while most will not. Be sure to inquire first.

What Do You Do With the Old Hanging Folders?

In this case, you may want to look into alternative methods to dispose of your file folders in an environmentally sensitive manner. Well, we have some tips for you. Do not be afraid to get creative with them.

1. Papier-mâché

If you have kids, then this is the perfect craft for them. They can fashion papier-mâché items from your old file folders. In addition, since most of the folders come in different colors, it will give the projects an aesthetically pleasing look that cannot be achieved by plain paper or old newspapers.

It will undoubtedly make their papier-mâché project stand out from the others. You can also save the projects and use them to decorate your house. That way, you will not have to worry about disposing of them. However, do not forget to take out materials that are not made from the paper before working with them.

2. Craft Supplies

It is also a great hack if you have kids. Kids love coloring, and they will enjoy it, even more, when it is on colored paper. You can gather your old office file folders, take them home to your kids and watch them get all excited to color on them. They can also use them for other crafts like origami.

Kids enjoy origami, and it is even more interesting when they can fold the different colors into various shapes. Now, they will have an array of origami pieces to play with.

3. Flip Em and Use Em

Another alternative is to flip them and use them. Here, you will be turning the file folders inside out to see if you can use them for other things. For instance, you may cut them into sizes and use them as post-it notes. You can attach them to your fridge with tiny fridge magnets.

You can also attach them all and use them as note pads. Note pads sure come in handy when you need to take a quick note of something. You can also look into printing or writing office instructions and pasting them on the notice board in your office.

4. Compost It

Hanging file folders are made primarily from paper; hence, you can compost them. First, however, you will have to remove the metals, plastics and office pins attached to them as they do not decompose. Then, you can simply bury the papers in your compost pile, and in a matter of weeks, you will have yourself some fertilizer.

You can also shred the paper into small pieces and place them in warm and soapy water for a few minutes. Then, take out the paper and bury it. It will speed up the decomposition process.

5. Packaging Paper

This has to be the easiest hack. Most offices have paper shredders, which you can use to your advantage. You can shred the file folders into small pieces and use them as paddings for gift boxes. The mixture of colors will surely give the boxes an appealing look.

It can also serve as padding when you want to move fragile items. For example, during Easter, if you intend to gift out some Easter eggs, you may lay the shredded paper in the box or crate before putting the eggs in there.

It also works as a substitute for sawdust. If you have chicks or baby animals that you need to keep warm, you can put a lot of shredded paper in their cradle.


Hanging file folders are one of the office supplies that we use in large quantities. Unfortunately, they are highly susceptible to wear and tear as they are made from paper, and as such, we will have to replace them often.

Replacing them often will also involve finding environmentally friendly ways to dispose of them. We have provided you with several ways, and we hope you have fun trying them out.


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.