Can You Recycle Window Envelopes? All You Need To Know

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Can you recycle window envelopes? What about bubble wrap envelopes? Here’s all you need to know.

I recently received an email from a reader asking me if you can recycle envelopes. Specifically window envelopes and bubble wrap envelopes. They told me they’d read conflicting information and wanted a definitive answer as to whether you can, or cannot recycle these types of envelopes.

So, let’s take a look at what to do with these types of envelopes. As a bonus, I’ve looked at whether or not you can recycle padded envelopes as well as some upcycling tips for reusing envelopes. Let’s go!

Can You Recycle Window Envelopes?

Envelopes laid out on a table with a blue text box that reads can you recycle window envelopes - here's all you need to know.

As much as I try to give advice that covers most people in the UK, there is in fact no definitive answer to whether you can recycle envelopes or not. Whether you can or not all lies with your local council, and the recycling facilities they have in place. 

Some councils, like North Lanarkshire Council, say that you can recycle envelopes provided you rip out the cellophane window. Others, like Midlothian Council, say that when recycling envelopes you shouldn’t remove the cellophane. Instead, you can just recycle them as they are. 

I have even heard of some local councils that say they can’t recycle any envelopes at all – windowed or not – as the adhesives in envelopes can gum up the machines. Although, I do think this has become less of a common occurrence as most councils do seem to recycle them now.

Why it has to differ so much from one area to another does baffle me. So the best advice on the recycling envelopes question is: check with your local council. Sorry that I couldn’t be more conclusive!

What About Padded Envelopes?

Padded envelopes (including Jiffy Bags) may be able to be recycled, depending on if they have been designed to be recyclable. Those that are able to be recycled have instructions printed on them detailing how to detach the bubble wrap from the paper. If this is the case, separate the parts and put each in the correct recycling bin.

If there are no recycling instructions printed on the envelope, then assume the envelope is not recyclable. This is because they are classed as composite or mixed materials.

If you’ve ever tried to separate the plastic bubble liner from the paper outer layer, you’ll know this is incredibly difficult, hence why they cannot be recycled. It’s frustrating because the individual components that make up these envelopes are recyclable.

What Can You Do If Your Council Doesn’t Recycle Envelopes?

red post box in South Queensferry
My favourite red post box in South Queensferry!

If your local council doesn’t recycle envelopes – window or otherwise – here are six ideas to minimise waste from envelopes:

  • Reuse envelopes as shopping lists or as notepaper.
  • Open your envelopes very carefully and reuse them.
  • Use envelopes for saving and storing seeds over the winter.
  • Cut up envelopes to use as packaging labels. I reuse envelopes to post items I’ve sold on eBay. To make labels I’ll cut up an old envelope rather than using a fresh sheet of paper.
  • Remove the window from the envelope and shred the paper. This paper can then be placed in your compost bin. The minimal amount of adhesive used in envelopes should break down easily in your composter. See my guide on how to compost if you’re new to composting!
  • You can also recycle stamps for charity. All you need to do is carefully cut around the stamps, save them up and then send them on to a charity that collects stamps.

Other good ideas to reduce the number of envelopes coming into your home are:

  • Opt out of junk mail
  • Ask your utility providers to switch you to paperless billing.
  • Likewise, ask your bank to switch you to paperless statements.

Another idea is to try to limit the number of envelopes you send:

  • Send eCards instead of greeting cards. Paperless Post is one of my favourite sites for free (and really nice looking, non-cheesy) eCards.

Alternatively, If you’ve got the time and are that way inclined then you could make your own envelopes out of recycled paper.

That’s just ten ideas for recycling envelopes and reducing the number of envelopes in your life. Do you have any other ideas for recycling envelopes? If so, do share in the comments below!

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