I was wondering, is it okay to put envelopes in the recycling bin that have the clear velum over the address window? Or should I be tearing them out?
-Leslie H., Indianapolis, IN
You don’t have to tear that clear plastic window out to recycle the envelope, but it doesn’t hurt to remove it first, either. Most paper recycling facilities can handle incidental bits and bobs like the envelope windows and staples (however, it is always best to check with your waste hauler to verify, since processing capabilities vary from place to place). During the recycling process, paper is broken down into a pulp and the items that don’t belong are filtered out. The materials filtered out of the pulp are discarded, so whether you remove the window from the envelope yourself or let the facility do it for you, that little piece of plastic (often polystyrene film) is probably ending up in a landfill. You can minimize this waste byproduct by taking steps to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive and by choosing envelopes with no windows for your own mailings.