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Sorted Office Paper (SOP) Drop-Off Day

  • Norton Environmental 1800 East Butler Avenue Flagstaff, AZ, 86001 United States (map)

Sorted Office Paper (SOP) is the highest grade paper commodity sold on the recycling markets. It typically sells for approximately $200/ton compared to mixed paper at approximately $30/ton. SOP is classified as white, office-type paper but can also include shredded paper, most mail and window envelopes, and book pages.

We’re organizing a drop-off day event to try and encourage people to bring this type of paper to the MRF. We need Master Recyclers to help sort the material and be sure that we don’t contaminate the load with lower-grade paper. We will also have the book binding cutter on hand to properly dispose of any books people bring.

This will be a monthly event, scheduled for the first Saturday of every month at the MRF. Please RSVP Dylan at or 213-2151 if you’d like to participate or have any questions.

SOP flyer.jpg

White-Paper Recycling Program

A White-Paper Recycling effort is being started in Flagstaff. This high-quality paper is known as “sorted Office Paper” (SOP) in the recycling industry. It brings about $200/ ton compared to its alternate disposal as “mixed paper” of $30-$50/ ton. Initially there will be a monthly drop-off day on the first Saturday of the month from 9-12 am (the day after the MRF Tours).  It will be managed by Master-Recyclers to quantify deliveries and do quality assurance. This will also be an opportunity to talk to people about recycling and particularly about “contamination” and why the term is now at the center of all recycling discussions.

This SOP project is an extension of what some of us did in collecting the same white-paper for SCA Tissue before it shut down. They had the same specifications.

The basic rules for SOP are: No brown paper, no coated (glossy), and no large areas of colored printing. Staples and window envelopes are OK. A more detailed discussion of the quality is at the bottom of this note. One feature we can tout to the public is that the SOP will be quickly baled with less exposure to prying eyes than disposal in curbside bins.

The City of Flagstaff shares the earnings from sales of recyclables with Norton Environmental. Next to aluminum, SOP is the most valuable recycled product. For SOP the increased value brings a net $70/ton to the City. SOP is already being collected by Norton from Iron Mountain Shredding. These shreddings are sold as SOP. 

Although we are starting with what we individually collect, we expect to expand the effort to include NAU, schools and other locations with significant SOP supplies. We hope that some Master-Recyclers will contact these places and make arrangements to bring their paper to the drop-off or perhaps make “collection runs” on First Fridays. Let us know if you are interested in this portion of the project, and if you have other ideas.

On “First Saturday” collection days one or more MRs will monitor the collection process at the MRF. The main purpose is to prevent contamination, but we will want to weigh deliveries to quantify the benefits of the program. It is also a great opportunity for outreach, even for non-SOP drop-offs. These drop-off events are likely to be lonely for several months, so we are planning to add the book recycling effort to the event. We will process any books from the library destined for destruction as well as additional drop-off.  Some of the book paper will contain SOP and the remainder can go into the mixed paper bin.

The practical requirements for SOP are:

1.       White paper (no newsprint, brown cardboard, or brownish “groundwood” paper)

2.       No coated (glossy) or plastic coater paper

3.       No padded envelopes, etc

4.       Minimal heavily printed paper. Should be less than 10% color

5.       Minimize red printing – It carries into the final product worse than other colors. A little is OK.

6.       Staples are OK, as are window envelopes

7.       White cardboard is OK. Tear it to see if it is white inside. Often used in medical packaging.


Official Material specifications for SOP

• Consists of printed or unprinted sheets, shavings, and cuttings of colored or white sulphite or sulphate ledger, bond, writing, and other papers which have similar fiber and filler content. Contains less than 10% color. This grade must be free of treated coated, padded or heavily printed stock. A percentage of carbonless paper and groundwood is allowable.

• Prohibitive materials may not exceed 1/2 of 1%.

When we saved paper for SCA Tissue they could take most white material including window-envelopes and card stock that was white inside when torn. Prohibited was any brown paper like newsprint or brown cardboard.