Updated On 01/02/2018 | Originally Published On 02/24/2015
Dear Recyclebank: Is bubble wrap recyclable? –Margene C.
Dear Margene: Bubble wrap can be recycled, but it should NOT be added to your recycling container. Instead, recycle bubble wrap along with your plastic bags at special collection points, often found at the entrance of grocery stores and pharmacies. This guidance applies not only to bubble wrap, but also to completely plastic bubble mailers and to air pillows, too.
Why Bubble Wrap Can’t Be Put In Your Recycling Container
Bubble wrap is usually made from RIC #4 low-density polyethylene [LDPE] film — “film” being the really important part here, as LDPE comes in both film form and a more rigid form. If a curbside recycling program accepts #4 plastics, they’re often only referring to bottles or containers made of #4 plastic. Squeezable bottles, such as those used for honey, are often made of #4 plastic.
Plastic films, usually made of plastics with RIC numbers 2 or 4, are rarely accepted for curbside recycling because they can tangle with other recyclables and with the machinery at an MRF. When they tangle with machinery at MRFs, they cause jams that can, at best, cost time and money, and at worst, damage equipment and cause injury to the sanitation workers having to clear the jams.
How To Recycle Bubble Wrap
Bubble wrap can be recycled through the same national drop-off collection programs that accept plastic bags. There are usually collection bins at the entrances of grocery stores and pharmacies, and you can use the plasticfilmrecycling.org drop-off locator to find additional nearby drop-off locations as well. Make sure to remove any labels, adhesives, nylon, or any other extra materials before you recycle the bubble wrap. The Sealed Air Corporation, which invented bubble wrap and holds the official trademark, also offers a mail-in program for its products.
Like bubble wrap, air pillows and plastic bubble mailers can also be recycled at the same drop-off collection points as plastic bags, and some bubble mailer companies, such as PAC Worldwide, will recycle their used mailers if you send them back.
Bubble mailers with paper outsides, however, cannot be recycled as-is. If you were to disassemble them into their separate material parts, though, you could then recycle the paper along with your other paper recyclables, and then take the bubble wrap to a drop-off location along with your other plastic films.
Other Eco-Friendlier Solutions For Bubble Wrap
The best thing to do with any material you already have is to reuse it as often as possible before disposing of it. Luckily, bubble wrap is easy to reuse!
1. Reuse bubble wrap when shipping your own packages.
2. Store fragile household goods in bubble wrap for later use. This is especially helpful during the holiday season: With every package you receive at the beginning of the season, you can set aside the bubble wrap, and then use it to store your delicate ornaments at the end of the season.
4. Donate extra bubble wrap. Pass it along to family and friends who are moving, or put it up for grabs on Craigslist or Freecycle. Shipping centers like the UPS Store sometimes accept donated material as well, but always call ahead first to check.
Now that you know exactly what to do with your bubble wrap, make sure you also know how to responsibly dispose of all the other packaging that arrives in the mail!
SOURCES: 1800Recycling, Los Angeles Times Online, RecycleNow