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Because You Asked

What Should I Do With All The Packaging From My Online Orders?

By Recyclebank |

Online orders can come with more than you bargained for.

Dear Recyclebank: When I order clothes online, they come with all sorts of packaging. What should I do with it all? –Deb S.

Dear Deb: With the holidays approaching, you may be ordering a lot of clothing online to rewrap as gifts, or having such gifts shipped directly to you. A typical online clothing order can come packaged in three or more layers of protection, leaving you with a lot to clean up after. Here’s how to handle the most common pieces:

  • The outer cardboard box can be recycled with other cardboard; flatten the box before putting it out for recycling. And though it’s not usually required, it doesn’t hurt to remove all tape and labels first.
  • If you don’t wish to save receipts and invoices, check what type of paper’s been used before discarding. If it’s coated or shiny, indicating it’s a thermal paper receipt, make sure to keep it out of the recycling bin. Receipts printed on large sticker and adhesive sheets are also a no-go.
  • Most plastic air pillows used to cushion goods can be recycled similarly to plastic bags and other plastic films: This means that they should not go in your recycling cart and through standard recycling facilities, but you can recycle them by dropping them off along with your plastic grocery bags at most grocery stores — use the American Chemistry Council’s Plastic Film Recycling Drop Off Directory to find a drop-off location near you. One exception to the drop-off rule: Air pillows that are made with biodegradable or compostable plastic (they’ll often be clearly labeled as such) are not accepted. But you can save any air pillows to reuse in your own packages, or look into recycling programs like SealedAir's mail-in program for their products.
  • Like plastic air pillows, plastic film drop-off locations are the best option for the various plastic bags that clothing often comes wrapped in.
  • Packing peanuts can be a pain both to handle and to dispose of. While they are generally made from #6 plastic, which is recyclable, most local plants are unable or unwilling to process this form. Call the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Peanut Hotline to find out where you might be able to drop them off locally, check to see if your local UPS store will accept them, or reuse them yourself.
  • Tissue paper may seem like a safe bet, but many areas will not recycle it as it has often been recycled previously, leaving it with shortened fibers that can’t be processed well. When in doubt — you guessed it — save it to reuse! You may also be able to compost it if you have access to a compost pile.

San Francisco Department of the Environment



How do you handle your packaging waste? Share your tips in the comments!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Amy H. 5 months ago
    You can donate unwanted packaging on BoxGiver
  • Jen D. 3 years ago
    Large cardboard boxes are great as a weed barrier under mulch. Medium size boxes are great to use for donations. I use the smaller boxes for storing and sorting canning jars, etc. Iuse the smaller plastic bags when cleaning the litter box and line wastebaskets with larger ones.
  • Melanie C. 3 years ago
    What about the tyvek shipping bags from clothing orders? I get way too many of those and no idea what to do with them. I reuse what I can but need more advice.
  • joanna l. 4 years ago
    I have an old leather handbag from my aunt. I store some rolled up bubble wrap in it to keep its shape. It works great!
  • H R. 4 years ago
    I have found that many of the UPS type stores will accept any size styrofoam you bring in. I take in the odd shaped styrofoam that is sometimes part of the packaging when you buy new items such as computers, tvs, etc. They will break it into usable pieces to reuse as packing to ship items for people.
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