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Because You Asked

Where Should I Recycle Plastic Air Pillows?

By Recyclebank |
Plastic air pillows are great for securing goods during shipping, but they can’t go in your recycling bin. Still, you can rest easy with these tips.

Dear Recyclebank: I get a decent amount of these little air bags that are used for shipping. They have a RIC number 4 on them, but from what I understand these bags get caught in the machinery so they don't want them put in the bin. Can I drop them off at the supermarket bins that collect the plastic supermarket bags? –C. M.

Dear C. M.:
You’re absolutely right that plastic film can be hazardous to the machinery at most recycling centers. Air pillows are meant to be reused but, like bubble wrap, they can only be shipped (or stored in a closet) for so long before deflation eventually makes them useless.

As we touched on in our post about recycling the packaging for online orders, the bins you’re thinking of at your local supermarket are a good option for your air pillows. They collect a variety of plastic film products and do typically accept #4 plastic. You can use the Plastic Film Recycling Drop Off Directory, maintained by the American Chemistry Council, to locate a suitable drop-off point in your area.

Grocery stores drop-offs aren’t the only option, though. Packaging manufacturers like Sealed Air have mail-in recycling programs for their products. Just make sure to stick to their directions so the material is processed correctly. No matter how you choose to recycle, deflate the pillows first and make sure they don’t have any residue from tape or glue, as this can contaminate the recycling process. Also, keep in mind that if you receive air pillows labeled as “biodegradable” or “compostable,” these are generally not accepted for recycling.

With the plastics recycling rate still hovering around 30% in the U.S., every little bit helps. Recycle those air pillows once they’re past their prime and you can help push that rate higher.

SOURCES: Environmental Protection Agency

Which unusual packaging materials do you have questions about recycling? Ask us in the comments and we may address it in a future column!
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  • Sue C. 4 days ago
    I have reused these shipping pillows when they are still inflated. However; if they aren’t I usually recycle them at ny local supermarket.Since these bags I think are considered no 4’s they’re accepted.
  • Anton P. 5 days ago
    Great posts
  • tommy b. 11 days ago
  • Courtney J. 11 days ago
    So glad lots of you keep yours! I keep all my air pillows and paper stuffing to reuse for my online shop and for general use around the house (those packing peanuts are great to puff up old stuffed animals and pillows!).
  • Kit Si H. 13 days ago
    We keep *every one* of those plastic air pillows because they are very useful when you need to ship something. For example if you just sold something in eBay and want to make sure the contents are securely packed.
    Seriously, I'll take them all! (So long if they are clean.)
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