Recycling

Ho-Ho-Holiday Packaging… Can It Be Recycled?

Carin Miller

You’re probably doing a lot of online shopping this year. Deliveries to homes are creating a lot of packaging waste. So, what to do with all those boxes and envelopes? Can the holiday packaging be recycled?

Before recycling or throwing these items away, consider trying to reuse them. Offer materials for free on sites like Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, or Freecycle.org. People who are moving, or own small businesses and ship items regularly, may be able to reuse these items and give them a second life.

Recycle Some Packaging at Home

Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes can be recycled curbside! Remember to remove all contents (Styrofoam™, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, etc.), then flatten your box and put it in your curbside bin. You may want to remove identifying information such as address labels but feel free to leave small amounts of packing tape attached to the box.

Kraft Paper

Some companies use brown Kraft paper to package items instead of bubble wrap. This material is recyclable curbside with your mixed paper.

Molded Paper

Many companies are replacing block Styrofoam™ with molded paper to package their goods. You may have seen this packaging around new electronics or other small appliances. It’s usually the color of a brown paper grocery bag and is similar to a molded paper egg carton. Good news! This material can be recycled curbside with your mixed paper.

Paper Shipping Envelopes

Shipping envelopes that are 100% paper can be recycled curbside with your mixed paper or dropped off at a local mixed paper recycling bin. Check the label on the envelope before recycling.

Other Recycling for Packaging

Plastic Shipping Envelopes

Envelopes that are 100% plastic (either film only or with bubble wrap) can be recycled at plastic film retail recycling drop-offs. Remove any non-plastic items like shipping labels or receipts. See www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for more information. Do not recycle curbside.

Tyvek® Envelopes

Shipping envelopes made from Tyvek® can be recycled by calling DuPont at (800) 448-9835. According to DuPont’s website How to identify Tyvek®, “Some Tyvek® envelopes have product identification either on the top flap adhesive release strip or on the bottom back flap. But you can also recognize Tyvek® by the unique swirl pattern of the material. And the fact that it simply defies ripping, tearing or puncturing.”

Bubble Wrap and Plastic Film Air Pillows

Bubble wrap and air pillows can be recycled at plastic film retail recycling drop-offs. Deflate air pillows and drop off with grocery bags and other plastic film. See www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for more information.

Packaging to a Landfill 

Mixed Materials Shipping Envelopes

Yellow “Jiffy” mailers are paper on the outside and plastic bubble wrap on the inside. This is a mixed material, so it is not recyclable. Try to reuse these envelopes if possible. Otherwise they belong in the trash.

Foam Sheets

Many electronics and other products are packaged with flexible protective foam sheets. There are no recycling options for this material, so try to reuse it or place it in the trash.

Packing Peanuts

These are made from either expanded polystyrene (EPS) or plant-based starch. There are no recycling options for EPS peanuts, so try to reuse them, or place them in the trash if you don’t have other options. If the packing peanuts dissolve in water, that means they are made from corn or other plant starches. Corn starch peanuts can be put in your backyard compost pile.

Block Styrofoam™

Many new electronics and other items are packaged in white block Styrofoam™.  There are no recycling options for block Styrofoam™ so it must be placed in the trash.

Packaging materials are incredibly diverse! If you come across other items, and are wondering if your holiday packaging be recycled, find the District at www.CuyahogaRecycles.org and use the What Do I Do With? search bar at the top of every page of our website. If you don’t find an answer, call our hotline at (216) 443-3749.

About the Author

Carin Miller is the Education Specialist for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.

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