Envelopes disposal and recycling

The UK uses nearly 10 million tonnes of paper every year. These are often shipped from overseas timber farms, clocking up massive carbon footprints.

While much of the UK’s businesses and citizens are turning to electronic communication, physical letters are still used by many. So, in a modern world where we recycle our goods and look after the environment, it’s important to know how to responsibly dispose of envelopes.

Envelopes disposal and recycling

What are envelopes made of?

There are plenty of different types of envelopes. Usually, they are all made of paper and glue, often with a plastic address window. Some may be made from recycled paper (something which can be found out by checking the back of the envelope).

Padded envelopes are made of the same materials but are classed as “composite” materials because of the filler materials inside, such as bubble wrapping made from plastic.

Can I recycle envelopes?

In most areas, you can absolutely recycle envelopes and should do so to keep our environment healthy.

However, the type of envelope and your local area will be what determines how you can recycle it. Generally, paper envelopes can go into your household paper and cardboard recycling bins. However, certain envelopes, such as padded ones, may need to go to a supermarket recycling point or paper bank.

Can I recycle envelopes with plastic windows?

Even if your envelope has a plastic address window, it can be recycled with your paper waste. You don’t necessarily need to remove the plastic window either. Recycling plants are able to separate these during the sorting process, using thermo technology to melt the adhesive and part the plastic from the paper.

If you happen to live in one of the few areas that doesn’t accept envelopes in your kerbside paper recycling, you can take your envelopes to a local recycling centre. Alternatively, you can simply tear out the plastic window and adhesive and then throw these in your usual kerbside paper recycling.

Can I recycle padded envelopes?

Padded envelopes include a layer of bubble wrap that is ideal for transporting delicate or fragile items safely. They can be found in most homes and offices across the country, especially as online shopping continues to grow.

Unfortunately, these cannot be recycled. Their individual components are all recyclable but most recycling facilities in the UK will refuse what is known as “composite materials” – waste products that contain two or more different types of materials (plastic and paper) that cannot be easily separated.

However, you do have several options.

You can separate the materials yourself by removing the plastic and glue inside. If this is difficult or you’re planning on using many of these envelopes, you should consider switching to shredded-paper-stuffed envelopes. These do the job just as well but are recyclable (and compostable).

Can I recycle envelopes with stamps?

You can recycle stamped envelopes. The same technology in recycling plants that will remove plastic windows is also capable of removing stamps. Simply pop these in your regular kerbside recycling.

Can I recycle envelopes with glue strips?

Most local areas will accept these envelopes because they have the machinery to melt away the glue strips. However, you should always check with your local authority in case they do not have the resources available to do this.

In which case, you can remove the glue strip yourself by simply tearing off the parts of the envelope that have adhesive glue on them and disposing of these parts with your household waste. Then the rest of the envelope can go in your paper recycling.

It’s important now more than ever to take care of our planet and that means being conscious of what you’re throwing away. Make the quick and easy change to recycling your waste today.

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