Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Everyone knows that it is environmentally responsible to reduce, reuse, and recycle. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. With the convenience and popularity of online shopping, comes confusion about how to dispose of packaging products like poly mailers, bubble rolls, and padded envelopes. Recycling rules vary by location and type of material. We’re here to help explain how to recycle bubble wrap, poly mailers, and other common packaging. Properly recycling or reusing packaging helps keep it out of landfills and waterways and reduces the impact that online shopping has on our planet.
Is bubble wrap recyclable?
Yes. In many places, bubble wrap and plastic bubble mailers can be recycled by the same processors that handle other types of plastic films like grocery bags, produce bags and plastic wrappers. Mixed material mailers with paper laminated to bubble wrap cannot be recycled. Dispose of these mailers in the trash.
How can I recycle bubble wrap and bubble mailers?
The most common way to recycle bubble roll is by dropping it off at a store with a soft plastics recycling bin. Be sure to remove all labels by cutting them out and disposing in the trash. Deliver the bubble wrap or bubble mailers along with other flexible plastics to a recycling drop-off site, which can be found at grocery stores and pharmacies nationwide.
Are poly mailers recyclable?
Yes. Like bubble wrap, poly mailers can be placed into specialty plastics recycling bins alongside grocery bags and other soft plastics.
How can I recycle poly mailers?
Poly mailers can be recycled at flexible plastic recycling drop-off locations, just like bubble wrap and grocery bags. Before placing them in the bin, remove all labels by cutting them out of the poly mailer and disposing them in the regular trash. Place the remainder of the poly mailer into the recycling bin at your local flexible plastic recycling drop-off location.
Are padded envelopes recyclable?
Yes. Cushioned mailers that are made of paper and shredded paper are recyclable.
How can I recycle padded envelopes?
Padded envelopes can nearly always be placed in your curbside recycling bin. If your curbside recycling bin accepts paper products, you simply need to remove any plastic labels by cutting them away, then place them directly into your curbside recycling bin.
Additional Thoughts on Reducing Your Packaging Footprint
How to reuse packaging
If you don’t have access to a recycling location, consider reusing packaging around your home or business:
- Reuse bubble roll or mailers for shipping your own packages
- Wrap fragile items during a move, or save up bubble wrap and donate it on Freecycle, OfferUp or Craigslist to others who are moving
- Insulate windows with bubble wrap during winter months to help retain heat
- Insulate cloth grocery bags with bubble wrap to keep takeout food hot or cold
How to locate a flexible plastic recycling drop-off bin
There are many recycling centers and retail stores that offer a drop-off center for more difficult to recycle plastics such as bubble roll, plastic bags, and plastic films from packaging. To find a drop-off location for plastic bags and plastic wraps, use the zip code locator at plasticfilmrecycling.org.
What happens to recycled bubble wrap and poly mailers?
Plastics from bubble wrap, poly mailers, grocery bags, and other flexible plastics are recycled into containers, crates, pipe, railroad ties, and new bags and film. PAC uses recycled film in our Polyjacket-R. These 100% recyclable poly mailers and made from up to 50% recycled content film. Our Mailjacket and folding cartons are also recyclable and made from 100% recycled paper, 95% of which is post-consumer.
Recycled plastic is also used for durable composite lumber for fences, benches, decks, door, and window frames, even playground equipment by companies like TREX.
Learn more about plastic package recycling rules, partnerships, and products:
- Check out How2Recycle to see how standardized labeling is helping consumers recycle more products, more easily.
- Watch a video about why plastics have the potential to be more environmentally friendly than paper products.
- Check out PACs sustainability section to learn about partnerships, new products, and resources for better sustainable plastic packaging.