Can You Re-use and Recycle Postal Packaging?

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With e-commerce now a popular and growing method of shopping, the amount of postal packaging used and needing to be disposed of has increased as well. In order to cut down waste and avoid unnecessary landfill and pollution, it’s important to understand how we can re-use and recycle postal packaging.

Basic Envelopes

Your standard plain envelopes are easy to recycle in your household recycling or in paper recycling bins so long as they don’t contain any plastic. Stamps also do not affect whether an envelope can be recycled or not and can go straight in the recycling still attached. If the envelope has been sealed using any kind of plastic tape it will need to be separated before the envelope can be recycled. Alternatively, if you don’t want to send them to the recycling, they can be used for common household uses such as filing receipts, storing photos or as scrap paper to name a few. If they have transparent windows you will need to separate them before disposing of the film which can be easily torn away.

Padded Envelopes

How you recycle padded envelopes can be more complex than standard envelopes as often they are made from a combination of different materials.

Bubble and Foam Padded Envelopes are lined with bubble wrap or foam for protection. As a complete product, they aren’t recyclable as both materials contaminate each other in the recycling process. However, if you separate both the bubble/foam liner and paper outer envelope they are both recyclable through their own channels; the paper through household recycling and separation bins and the bubble wrap/foam liner at recycling centres and plastic bag collection points (both are made from light density polyethene plastic which is what carrier bags are often made from). Like envelopes, they can be repurposed but are more suited to being reused as a mailer by simply covering over the original address sticker and sealing with tape. With many people having sold the odd second-hand item online they can be quite useful to keep in the house! (Please note that any foil type materials within certain types of padded envelopes are not recyclable).

Other types of padded envelopes can include corrugated envelopes (an envelope mailer with a corrugated paper liner) and paper padded envelopes which use shredded paper fibres sandwiched between two layers of Kraft paper for cushioning. As these types of padded envelopes only contain paper and no plastic, they are a form of easier to recycle postal packaging and don’t require the separation of materials unlike with bubble/foam lined envelopes. Like their bubble/foam counterparts they are also well suited to be reused as a mailer with the help of a little extra tape.

Corrugated Mailers

Polythene Mailing Bags

Polythene mailing bags are commonly used for protecting lightweight items such as clothing and accessories; they’re tough, durable, waterproof and lightweight, but are they recyclable? Although not recyclable in many household recycling schemes, they are largely made from the same LPDE material as supermarket carrier bags meaning that they can be recycled in the same way by dropping them off at carrier bag collection points or recycling centres. Like padded envelopes, they are easy to reuse for their original purpose by simply covering over the old address label with a new one and sealing with adhesive tape. Alternatively, a good second-hand use for them at home is to use them as liners for small rubbish bins.

Postal Boxes and Book Packaging

Postal boxes and book packaging are easy to recycle postal packaging as for the most part they are made completely from cardboard which is widely recycled with little complications. Once you’ve used them you can simply put them into your household recycling bin to be turned into more packaging in the future. Book packaging can be reused for its original purpose again but has little or no use other than this. Postal boxes, however, can be reused for their original purpose as well as being perfect as household storage boxes as they usually come with either a hinged or telescopic lid.

Postal Boxes

Postal Tubes

Postal tubes are another easy to recycle postal packaging and are also easy to reuse as they are made from cardboard with plastic end caps that are easy to detach and recycle individually in your household recycling. They are also easy to reuse for posting items such as posters and bottles without the need to do much else to them. If you don’t have a postal use for them, you can use them for storing similar items you would put it them for posting or if you’re feeling more creative you could cut them down to make into stationary pots.


The good news is that most of the packaging that protects the clothes, books, electronics and accessories that you ordered can often be quite simple to recycle and reuse, helping you do your bit to reduce waste.


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Remy Courtois

Remy has been a contributing author since late 2011, when he arrived at Davpack from a major packaging competitor. Originally a product buyer with many years of specialist knowledge in the fields of custom cardboard boxes and corrugated products, Remy now combines his purchasing and literary skills to maximum effect in our marketing team as a content writer. Born to French and British parents in Nottingham, Remy had a bilingual upbringing and has lived for the past twelve years just South of Paris. He presently commutes twice a month to France but is in the process of re-locating to his birthplace. Davpack

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