Can you recycle window envelopes? What about bubble wrap envelopes? Let’s investigate.

A little while ago I got an email from a reader asking me “can you recycle envelopes?”. Specifically window envelopes and bubble wrap envelopes.  She told me she’d read conflicting information on the internet and wanted a definitive answer on whether you can, or cannot recycle these types of envelopes.

can you recycle window envelopes?

Can You Recycle Window Envelope

As much as I try to give advice that covers most people in the UK, the trouble is there is in fact no definitive answer to if 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 – that they can 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. However, I think this has become less of a common occurrence.

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

What About Bubble Wrap Envelopes?

Bubble wrap envelopes or similar plastic padded envelopes (including Jiffy Bags) cannot be recycled. 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

My favourite red post box – it’s in South Queensferry!

If your local council doesn’t recycle envelopes here are five ideas to minimise waste from envelopes:

  • Reuse envelopes as shopping lists or as notepaper for beside the phone
  • Open your envelopes very carefully and reuse them
  • Use them 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 composter. The minimal amount of adhesive used in envelopes should break down easily in your composter.  See this guide on how to compost if you’re new to composting!

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 greetings cards – Paperless Post is one of my favourite sites for free (and really nice looking, non-cheesy) eCards.

And 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.  Does anyone have any other ideas for recycling envelopes – do share in the comments below!

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