Not sure how to recycle plastic mailers? Recycling rules can be confusing… How long have you stood in front of recycling bins debating whether to Compost, Recyclable, or Trash? We can help explain how to recycle poly mailers and other common packaging. Knowing how to recycle bubble roll, or how to reuse padded envelopes, not only helps out the planet but saves your wallet, as well.

Recycling Bubble Mailers

Bubble mailers consist of multiple components, typically of bubble roll and paper. By removing the different components into separate materials, the paper can be recycled while the bubble roll, a non-biodegradable plastic can be recycled through a plastics recycling store drop-off.

PAC Worldwide produces a large selection of 100% recyclable packaging products, including our poly mailers (Polyjacket, Polyjacket-R), recyclable poly bubble mailers (Airjacket, Jumbojacket, Xpandojacket, Clearjacket), rigid paperboard mailers (Mailjacket) and many others (Securejacket, Lab Bag, Autojacket, PACjacket film, and Bubble roll). When a customer receives their purchase packaged in a poly mailer, questions are often still asked – Are poly mailers recyclable? Or, How do I recycle bubble roll? Much of the scrap polyethylene bags and plastic wrap we use on a daily basis are recyclable, but unfortunately, still end up in landfills. Not only do we need to know plastic bags, plastic film, and other plastic wraps are recyclable, but we need to know how to recycle these types of plastics at the end of their useful lives.

Recycling Bubble Roll

We all know bubble roll: what it is and our childhood memories playing with this fun, pop-able packing material. Today, bubble roll is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and most of the packages we receive on a daily basis have some form of bubble roll inside. So how do we recycle bubble roll? Is bubble roll recyclable? Or are there ways to reuse bubble roll?

Bubble roll is a non-biodegradable plastic, so finding clever ways to reuse or recycle bubble roll is useful for every household. In many places, bubble roll can be recycled with several other types of film, including plastic bags from grocery stores, produce bags, zipper lunch bags and plastic wrappers from food products. Since recycling guidelines vary from place to place, it’s important to review your local recycling programs and guidelines. The most common way to recycle bubble roll and other films is through a plastics recycling store drop off. All of the material should be packaged inside a clear plastic bag and tied to prevent any individual plastic films from escaping. Grocery store drop-offs, pharmacies, and large retail outlets are likely to have drop-off locations.

Reuse Bubble Roll

Not everyone has access to plastic recycling drop off locations. If you have bubble roll to get rid of but you’re unable to recycle it, there are other useful things that bubble roll can be used for:

• Reuse bubble roll for shipping your own packages
• Wrap fragile items during a move, or pass it along for other to use for packing
• If you have a green thumb, use it to protect plants from cold weather frost during winter months
• Similarly, it can be used to wrap up windows during winter months to help retain heat
• If you live in a rural area and receive a lot of package deliveries, bubble roll can come in handy for keeping deer out of the garden

Why is Recycling Important?

The process of recycling uses far less energy than manufacturing with brand new raw materials. Recycling conserves energy and natural resources, reduces pollution, and helps prevent landfills from filling up. Simply put, recycling protects the environment for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. (

Why can’t I put plastic bags in my recycling bin?

The recycling bins most of us have at home and picked up weekly utilize a system called single stream recycling. It’s actually a fairly advanced operation that begins when trucks pick up your recyclable items and take them to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). This is where the bottles, plastics, and metals get sorted in order to be processed and remade into new products. They are loaded onto a conveyer belt and run through a series of machines designed to separate the varying materials. Paper and cardboard are separated first by a machine with fast, rotating wheels. A large magnet then pulls out some of the metals. The remaining metals are extracted by a machine called an Eddy current rotor. The plastic and glass continue down the line to an optical scanning system which recognizes the plastic and blows it away with a burst of air. The heavier glass moves on down to the end of the line where it falls into bins designated for glass. Plastic bags and wrappers are lightweight and come in numerous shapes and sizes, being prime candidates for getting tangled up in the sorting machines and causing detrimental shutdowns.

Ziploc has put together a wonderful video explaining this process:

Plastic Recycling Drop-offs

Store drop off recycling is one method of making sure your plastic mailers are being properly recycled. Today, there are many recycling centers and retail stores that have made themselves available as a drop-off center for these more difficult to recycle plastics such as bubble roll, plastic bags and plastic films from packaging. To find a drop-off location for your plastic bags and plastic wraps nearest you, use the zip code locator at Initiatives such as these and clearer labeling like the How2recycle label are encouraging consumers to get in the habit of taking these plastics back to the store or to a nearby recycling drop-off. In 2011, one billion pounds of plastic bags and film were recycled in the U.S. That’s an increase of 55% from just 6 years previous in 2005. (2011 National Postconsumer Recycling Report)

Those pounds of plastic are recycled into containers, crates, pipe, railroad ties, and new bags and film. PAC actually utilizes this recycled film in our Polyjacket-R. They are 100% recyclable poly mailers and made from up to 50% recycled content film. The Mailjacket and Folding cartons are also recyclable and made from 100% recycled paper, 95% of which is post-consumer. Very cool!

This recycled plastic may also become durable composite lumber for fences, benches, decks, door and window frames, even playground equipment by companies like TREX. TREX recycles more than 2 billion bags a year at their plant in Winchester, Virginia. That’s 720,000 pounds of material a WEEK. That’s a lot of scrap Polyethelyne film!

Recyclable Plastic Items

Grocery store plastic bag recycling bin
Grocery store plastic bag recycling bin

All clean, dry bags and wraps labeled #2 or #4 are accepted at bins like these found in grocery stores nationwide. Recyclable items include:

  • Plastic shipping envelopes (poly mailers and poly bubble mailers)
  • Ziploc and other re-sealable bags
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic retail bags
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Ice bags
  • Wood pellet bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Bread & produce bags
  • bubble roll
  • salt bags
  • cereal bags
  • Case overwrap
  • Toilet paper, napkin and paper towel wraps

Perhaps you can hang a plastic bag in your kitchen somewhere to collect these types of plastic items until you are ready to make another trip to the grocery store. Never seem to remember to bring the bag of plastics along with you? Try writing down “recycle plastic bags” at the top of every grocery list as a reminder to bring your recyclable plastic bags. We’re all on the same planet together – let’s do our part to take care of it!

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