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Can You Recycle Puzzles? And What You Can Do Instead

In the life of every true puzzle lover comes a time when they have to face the truth — the space we have for our puzzle collection isn’t as big as we want it to be. And not all puzzles were created equal. Some looked really nice when you buy them, but you later realized they’re not as enjoyable to solve. 

And that’s when you start asking these questions — What can you do with old finished puzzles? Can you recycle puzzles? And isn’t it better to donate them? 

Let’s find the answers and decide the faith of our puzzle collections once and for all.

Can You Recycle Puzzles?

Yes, you can recycle puzzles, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. 

Puzzles consist of two main parts — the box and the pieces. First, you should look for the recyclable symbol at the back or the sides of the box. If you find it, you can be sure that your puzzle box can be recycled. 

But what if there’s no recyclable sign?

If you really want to know, it’s best to ask your local recycling facility. Still, most puzzles are made of cardboard, so recycling them should be fine.

So, what about the pieces?

Whatever you do, do not pour puzzle pieces into your recycling bin. They’re tiny and sorting through them would be a huge challenge. If you want to recycle jigsaw puzzles, it’s best to leave the pieces in the box.

To understand whether we can recycle puzzles or not, we should know more about how they’re made.

How Jigsaw Puzzles Are Made

Jigsaw puzzles are typically made with a machine that cuts cardboard or wood into small, irregularly shaped pieces that fit together to form a full picture. Here are the basic steps involved in making a jigsaw puzzle:

  1. Design the puzzle: First, the puzzle maker creates a puzzle design. This can be a photograph, illustration, or other image divided into small, interlocking pieces.
  2. Create a template: Once the design is finalized, a template is created that shows where the pieces will be cut. This template serves as a guide for the cutting machine.
  3. Cut the pieces: The cutting machine uses a steel blade to cut the pieces according to the template into different shapes and sizes.
  4. Sort the pieces: Once the pieces are cut, a machine sorts them by shape and size. 
  5. Package the puzzle: The pieces go in a box along with a picture of the completed puzzle for reference.

Overall, making a jigsaw puzzle is a complex process that requires careful design and precision cutting. However, with modern manufacturing techniques, we can produce large quantities of high-quality puzzles quickly and efficiently. 

Since puzzles are mostly made of cardboard or wood, we should be able to recycle them. In fact, cardboard is among the best materials for recycling.

What to Do With Old Puzzles

Although I understand how much space old jigsaw puzzles can take, the thought of throwing them in the garbage, even for recycling, makes me incredibly sad. Isn’t there a better way to get rid of finished puzzles? There is more than one!

Here are my top ideas and creative uses for finished puzzles:

  • Frame them: If you really love the image on your puzzle, consider framing it and hanging it on your wall as a piece of art.
  • Compost them: If your old puzzles don’t have a plastic coating, you can try composting them. It would be better for the environment.
  • Gift or donate them: Jigsaw puzzles make great gifts for friends and family members. You could also donate them (find more information about that below).
  • Repurpose the pieces: There’s a reason why reusing is better than recycling. It’s a way to give new life to a puzzle that you would otherwise throw in the trash. Plus, it’s a great activity to spark your creativity. You can find some ideas on how to repurpose puzzle pieces below.
  • Sell them online: If you don’t have any use for your finished puzzle, you could sell it online to someone who might enjoy it. There are many websites and apps dedicated to buying and selling used puzzles.
  • Disassemble them and do them again: Taking the puzzle apart and putting it back together again can be a fun challenge, especially if you don’t remember all the details from your first attempt. And let’s face it, you probably don’t.
  • Swap them with friends: If you have a group of friends who all enjoy doing puzzles, consider swapping finished puzzles with each other so everyone gets to try out different designs.

If you want to be eco-friendly, don’t recycle your old puzzles. There are so many better ways to breathe new life into them. 

part of my puzzle collection

7 Ideas to Repurpose Puzzle Pieces

You don’t have to keep a huge puzzle collection to show everyone that you love this activity. 

Here are the most popular ways to repurpose puzzle pieces instead of throwing them away:

  1. Turn them into placemats or coasters: If you have small puzzles that would fit on a placemat, you can glue them to a piece of cardboard or foam board and use them as colorful placemats or coasters for your table.
  2. Make jewelry: Paint puzzle pieces and turn them into earrings, necklaces, or bracelets.
  3. Create a wreath: Glue puzzle pieces to a wreath form to create a unique piece for your front door. You can also make other eco-friendly Christmas decorations with puzzle pieces.
  4. Use as decoration: Glue puzzle pieces to plain wooden or cardboard boxes, picture frames, or other items to add some texture and interest.
  5. Make a keychain or zipper pull: Attach a painted or decorated puzzle piece to a keychain or zipper pull for a fun and unique accessory.
  6. Make a mirror frame: Glue puzzle pieces to the edge of a plain mirror to create a unique and colorful frame.
  7. Use as plant markers: Paint or write plant names on puzzle pieces and use them as markers for your indoor or outdoor plants.

And if you need more ideas, just head over to Pinterest.

Where to Donate Puzzles

Donating jigsaw puzzles is the best decision you can make. This way, others will be able to share your joy of finishing the same picture.

Here are five places where you can donate puzzles:

  • Local libraries: Many libraries have a puzzle collection that patrons can borrow. Donating your puzzles to your local library ensures that many people in your community will continue to enjoy them.
  • Schools and daycare centers: Puzzles can be a great learning tool for young children, helping them to develop cognitive and fine motor skills.
  • Retirement and nursing homes: Seniors can also benefit from the mental stimulation and social interaction that puzzles provide.
  • Community centers and shelters: Community centers and shelters often have areas for recreation and relaxation. Donating jigsaw puzzles can help provide a fun activity for individuals or families to enjoy.
  • Charitable organizations: Many charitable organizations, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, accept donations of puzzles and other games. These organizations may sell the items in their thrift stores to generate funds for their programs or provide them to families in need.

Overall, donating puzzles can help provide a fun and educational activity for individuals or families who may not have the resources to purchase them. Plus, it helps reduce waste and ensures that more people will enjoy the same puzzle you did.

Final Thoughts

While you can recycle puzzles, there are much better ways to get rid of them. If you insist on recycling, make sure to put the puzzle pieces in their box and that the box itself is recyclable. 

Instead of throwing away your old finished puzzles, you can try selling, gifting, or donating them to those in need. That way, others will share the same joy you once did. You’ll feel much better about leaving your finished puzzles behind.


How do you dispose of old puzzles?

The best way to dispose of old puzzles is to sell, gift, or donate them. Generally, puzzles can be recycled, but not all recycling facilities will accept them. Alternatively, you can try composting your old puzzles.

Can you put jigsaw puzzles in the recycling bin?

You shouldn’t put jigsaw puzzles in the recycling bin without a box. If you want to recycle a puzzle, check if there’s a recycling symbol on the back or the sides of the box. If there is, put all the pieces in the box and place the box in the recycling bin.

Can puzzle pieces be composted?

If the puzzle pieces have no plastic coating, they can be composted. It’s an eco-friendly way to get rid of your finished jigsaw puzzles that’s much better than recycling them. 

Are wood puzzles recyclable?

Wood puzzles are recyclable, depending on the type of wood and whether they contain any materials like glue or finishes. If the puzzle is made of untreated, natural wood without any additives, it can be recycled. Otherwise, you should dispose of it in the appropriate waste bin. It’s always best to check with your local recycling program to see what types of wood they accept.

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