Can You Recycle Styrofoam, Bubble Wrapping, and Other Shipping Packaging?

  • Double-check what your native curbside recycling will settle for, together with the kinds of paper, cardboards, and quantity plastics, since it could differ. (A fast web seek for your metropolis or county’s waste-management authority ought to deliver you to the appropriate web page.) Take observe of any particular necessities, similar to cleansing, separating, and organizing the supplies.
  • Break aside packaging that accommodates multiple materials—take away plastic shells from cardboard bins, for instance—even when they’re all recyclable.

Some plastic (relying on the place you reside)

Unless you could find a use for them in your house, it’s truly extra accountable to throw away plastics that may’t be accepted curbside than to place it within the recycling bin and say a prayer.

The majority of worldwide plastic manufacturing goes into packaging, however solely a few of that may be recycled. Depending on the place you reside, most moldable packaging gained’t be recyclable in your curbside bin—and as our colleagues at The New York Times’s Climate desk have reported, you possibly can’t assume that something with a recyclable image can be accepted by your native system.

Wishcycling, or placing stuff in your curbside bin that may’t truly be recycled that manner, can gunk up the works at already overtaxed recycling facilities.

Check together with your native recycling collector, which can sometimes checklist the quantity for exhausting plastics that you would be able to put in your bin and what you possibly can’t.

To get rid of different plastics, you will have extra native choices. The EPA recommends Earth911 to find drop-off and pickup choices outdoors your curbside program.

Most paper and cardboard

Recycling paper and cardboard has environmental prices (from transporting and distributing them, in addition to the reclamation course of), however the supplies usually tend to be recycled than plastic.

Most paper and cardboard utilized in transport can go into your recycling bin for native pickup, with a couple of exceptions.



Boxes with an excessive amount of plastic or duct tape

Most recycling amenities can deal with slightly further tape on bins (the EPA even says envelopes with plastic home windows are okay), however take away as a lot adhesive plastic—tape, transport labels, label holders—as you possibly can while you break them right down to put in your bin. (Throw away the tape.)

Shredded paper

Although shredded paper is recyclable, it loses recycling worth, and a few curbside packages don’t settle for it. Local recycling packages have completely different guidelines for shredded paper: For instance, some will ask you to place it in a paper bag, some a transparent plastic bag, and others don’t settle for it in any respect.

Shiny or laminated paper and cardboard

Unfortunately, paper objects with coatings can’t be recycled. If you need to delay their journey to the landfill, you possibly can attempt to reuse them.

Cardboard bins with different packing supplies hooked up

Some merchandise could are available in cardboard bins with extra supplies affixed inside with adhesives, like molded plastic or Styrofoam. If you need to recycle these bins, it’s essential to take away the opposite supplies first.

If one thing is technically recyclable however your curbside program doesn’t settle for it, it’s higher for recycling packages when you throw it away than to place it in your bin and hope for the most effective.

But curbside isn’t the one recycling and reusing choice. Some packages, just like the Pacific Northwest–primarily based Ridwell, provide a subscription service for much less generally recyclable objects. The EPA recommends Earth911 to discover native pickup and drop-off choices similar to a mail heart, municipal waste drop-off heart, or donation packages.

Keep in thoughts {that a} automobile journey to a far off donation heart could spend extra in carbon emissions than simply placing that bag of busted zip-ties within the rubbish. You have to select your battles.

Here are some frequent supplies which might be sometimes not accepted by curbside however could also be eligible for specialty recycling or reclamation close to you.

Compostable plastic-replacement supplies

Even if plastic-like packaging is labeled compostable, test together with your native composting packages to see if they’ll settle for it. If not, you must merely throw it away, somewhat than put it in curbside recycling, even when it resembles plastic. Don’t put it in your compost pile.

Packing peanuts, Styrofoam, and foam

Neither Styrofoam nor biodegradable plant-starch packing peanuts are recyclable by means of most curbside packages. You might be able to discover a native drop-off heart that accepts delicate plastic movies, Styrofoams, and their biodegradable replacements.

If you do find yourself throwing packing peanuts away, safe them inside one other bag (ideally one already headed for the trash), since they’re light-weight, simply wind-borne, and vulnerable to scattering.

Bubble wrapping, bubble mailers, plastic baggage, and plastic movie

Whether plastic or biodegradable, most delicate plastic-like supplies seemingly can’t be recycled in your curbside bin. You can seek for native drop-off facilities, similar to some UPS shops, or pickup packages. Otherwise, throw it away.

Rubber bands

You might be able to discover donation facilities for rubber bands in case you have sufficient of them. But your finest wager is to make use of them across the house, backyard, workplace, or craft drawer as a lot as you possibly can.



Everything not talked about above ought to go within the trash when you can’t discover one other use for it in your individual house, office, or craft closet.

Realistically, most of us gained’t discover a good motive to reuse the disposable packaging that comes with an internet order, but when you could find even yet another use for it, it should considerably scale back the carbon affect of that packaging.

If you are feeling unhealthy about that, keep in mind that irrespective of the packaging materials—plastic, paper and cardboard, or different plant starch composites—recycling, for now, even at its finest, nonetheless produces landfill-bound waste and air pollution, and gained’t resolve the a number of environmental crises brought on by disposable consumerism by itself.

All the extra motive to attempt to store extra mindfully and, while you do purchase, give firms suggestions to cut back overpackaging.

This article was edited by Christine Cyr Clisset.

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  12. Valentina Beghetto et al., Recent Advancements in Plastic Packaging Recycling: A Mini-Review, Materials, August 24, 2021

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