Background With every oil tanker comes the risk of an accident and oil spill. Sorbents are the most suitable means to remove oil spills. Aerogels as sorbents have high porosity and can be made from cellulose from paper waste. The literature does not distinguish between paper and cardboard as sources of cellulose aerogels and little is known about composites of cellulose aerogels consisting of cellulose fibres and chemically untreated, unprocessed fibres or particles of straw, wool, macroalgae or cellulose acetate from cigarette butts. In this study, the sorption properties for marine diesel oil and biodiesel of such aerogels and their regenerative capacity with bioethanol were investigated. Methods Cellulose aerogels were prepared from office paper and cardboard waste without and with chemically untreated algae, straw, wool and cellulose acetate as a composite by freeze drying. All samples were hydrophobised with methylsilane. The density to calculate the porosity and the contact angle were determined. Then the sorption capacity was determined over five cycles of sorption of oil and regeneration with bioethanol. Results The average contact angle of all samples was 125°, indicating hydrophobicity. Paper-based aerogels were found to consistently have higher sorption capacities for biodiesel, marine diesel oil and bioethanol than cardboard-based aerogels. In particular, the wool/cellulose aerogel composite was found to have better sorption capacity for biodiesel, marine diesel oil and bioethanol than all other samples. The cellulose acetate/cellulose aerogel composite showed significantly higher sorption capacities than the paper and cardboard control samples (highest value is 32.25 g g.sup.-1 ) only when first used as a sorbent for biodiesel, but with a rapid decrease in the following cycles.