light coloured envelopes on white background.
Envelope Recycling

Envelope Recycling and Disposal

Recycling envelopes is a great way to reuse paper and save on the energy required to create new ones – as the UK uses nearly 10 million tonnes of paper every year. It’s often shipped from overseas timber farms, clocking up massive carbon footprints. For businesses and homes, envelope recycling helps cut this down.

While many UK businesses and citizens use electronic communication, physical letters are still essential in some areas. Envelopes also vary by type, so it’s important you know how best to dispose of every kind of envelope you use. Learn more about envelope recycling and disposal to get rid of your used ones in an environmentally friendly way.

Envelope recycling

  • What are envelopes made of?

    Most envelopes are made of paper, though there are many different types of envelopes. They’re often made with glue to keep them together and some types include an address window made from plastic. You can also get envelopes made from recycled paper (check the back of the envelope).

    Padded envelopes are made of paper and glue too. However, they’re classed as composite materials because of the filler materials inside – such as bubble wrapping made from plastic.

  • Can you recycle envelopes?

    Yes, you can recycle envelopes in most cases and should do so to help protect the environment. This is because almost all envelopes are made mainly from paper, which is a highly recyclable material. However, the type of envelope and your local area determines how you can recycle envelopes.

    Generally, paper envelopes can go into your household or workplace paper and cardboard recycling bins. However, certain envelopes, such as padded ones, may need to go to a supermarket recycling point or paper bank due to the additional materials they contain.

  • Can you recycle window envelopes?

    Yes, you can recycle envelopes with windows alongside all your other paper recycling. When recycling envelopes with windows you don’t need to remove the plastic window either. Recycling plants separate these during the sorting process, using thermo technology to melt the adhesive and part the plastic from the paper.

    If you live in one of the few areas that doesn’t allow recycling window envelopes as part of your kerbside paper recycling, you can take them to a local recycling centre instead. Alternatively, simply tear out the plastic window and adhesive, then recycle the envelopes with windows removed in your usual kerbside paper recycling.

  • Can you recycle padded envelopes?

    You can recycle padded envelopes, but it depends on what they’re filled with and can follow a different process. Often padded envelopes include a layer of bubble wrap or shredded paper as protection to transport delicate or fragile items safely. They’re used in most homes and offices across the UK, especially as online shopping continues to grow.

    Their individual components are recyclable, but most UK recycling facilities refuse what is known as composite materials – waste products containing two or more different types of materials (plastic and paper) that cannot be easily separated. However, if the filling is also paper, you may be able to recycle padded envelopes alongside your paper recycling.

    Otherwise, you can separate the materials by removing the plastic and glue inside and then just recycling the paper envelope. If this is difficult or you use many of these envelopes, consider switching to shredded-paper-stuffed envelopes. These do the job just as well and are recyclable.

  • Can you recycle envelopes with stamps?

    You can recycle stamped envelopes. The same technology in recycling plants that removes plastic windows can also remove the stamp before recycling envelopes. You can place envelopes with stamps in your regular kerbside recycling or paper recycling bin at work.

  • Can you recycle envelopes with glue strips?

    Most local areas accept envelopes with glue strips to recycle because they have the machinery to melt away the glue strips. However, always check with your local authority in case they don’t have such resources available.

    You can always 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 general waste. Then the rest of the envelope can go in your paper recycling.

  • How do you recycle old envelopes?

    In most cases you can recycle an envelope by simply putting it in your mixed recycling bin at home or in with your paper recycling at work. If the envelope has a plastic window, check whether your local authority can recycle these types – or just cut or tear it out.

    With padded envelopes, check the filling and if it’s made from shredded paper then you can recycle it alongside other paper waste. If not, then you may have to dispose of it with your general waste.

  • Can you reuse envelopes?

    Unfortunately, you can’t normally reused envelopes as the seal is broken. You might be able to tape it up or reapply glue – depending on what you’re sending in an envelope and who it’s going to. You can easily reuse envelopes if handing it over in person and if the contents don’t need sealing.

Learn about more 
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