In those envelopes paper is often glued pretty well to bubble wrap portion, making it hard to separate. On top of that bubble wrap itself is seldom recycled - for example in my area of Ontario, Canada it does not qualify for curb-side pick up of recyclables.

Are there any environmentally friendly ways to dispose of those? I would not buy them, but when you order online, usually you do not have a choice on how the merchandise will be packed.

  • Even if you're about to throw them out, because you have too many and won't reuse them, remember to pop all the bubbles for your enjoyment, giving them last moment to shine and be useful. Nov 18, 2019 at 15:56
  • In addition to the answers below, try to lobby companies you get them from (and politicians) to no longer use these. There are limited cases where the bubble needs to be affixed to the paper, so creating ones that do not have the 2 sections affixed to each other would work in most cases and would allow people to recycle both components. They also make 100% recyclable padded envelopes with no plastic content. Jan 26, 2022 at 7:18

6 Answers 6


Not an exact answer to what you're asking, but:

Re-use them!

Re-using is almost always better than recycling, since recycling isn't 'free' (it still takes energy).

They take up little space, you can save them for years, you don't have to go to the post-office when you do need them, and it saves you some money!

  • 2
    Yeah, I suppose if you open them carefully, and then cover up old address labels, those could be reused - at least few times before they disintegrate. Mar 11, 2015 at 0:16
  • 2
    I re-use mine all the time. I keep them in a pile somewhere and every time I have to mail something, I use them. Just peel off the old stickers.
    – lemontwist
    Mar 22, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    I have given up collecting them as they arrive far faster than I need them.
    – PJTraill
    Jul 5, 2018 at 13:23
  • I worked in a small company, and we had a room called Packaging room. There, we would throw all packaging materials fro the stuff we received, and use them to pack the goods we were sending out. The company does not provide goods for the end user, so there was little concern about the "aesthetic" aspects. Nov 18, 2019 at 15:55

1. Try to reuse

Reuse is always better than recycling or disposal because 1) it saves energy that is used in the recycling process and 2) it saves energy and materials for manufacturing and transporting new or recycled envelopes.

The most simply way of reuse would be to relabel and resend, but you can also reuse the envelopes for other purposes, for example as knee pads for gardening work. If you have lots of envelopes you can give them away to friends and family or on websites like freecycle.org.

2. Check with your local recycling facility

I heard that there are a few recycling companies that accept paper/plastic-composite materials. Although they seem to be rare, it doesn't hurt to check this first. While you are at it also check which types of plastic your local recycling facility accepts (for the next step).

3. Try to separate the paper and plastic

You mentioned that in your case it's impossible to separate the paper and plastic and for some types of envelopes this is very true, but sometimes cutting the envelope open first with a scissor gives you better access to the bubble wrap allowing you to separate it after all. However separating only makes sense if you can recycle the paper and/or plastic.

If you can separate but the plastic isn't of a type that is recycled by your local recycling company, you can try upcycling plastics by melting them into something else (see also Fusing plastic bags). Be careful when you do this, because melting plastics may release toxic fumes!

4. Check with the envelope manufacturer/sender

If you can't separate the paper and plastic or if you can't find out what kind of plastic was used (most likely it's LDPE), you could try to contact the envelope manufacturer. They should be able to tell you what kind of plastic it is and perhaps provide alternative recycling options. If the manufacturer has no good recycling options urge them to become more environmentally aware. You can also contact the envelope sender and ask them to start using recyclable bubble mailers.


Perhaps use them when packing things for storage: small fragile items inside (plates, saucers, etc.) and/or packing between items. Cutting them up or in half furthers the use. Holiday ornaments, similar items would be better protected. Just some thoughts.


I say go back to mailing envelopes of heavy brown paper, like the used paper bags in the Super markets. Why did this plastic bubble inside and outside take the front runner as protecting the contents? Let's pack our mailings with extra newspaper (that is biodegradable).

  • 1
    Quite so, but that is not what the question is about: what do you do when you get something in one of these envelopes?
    – PJTraill
    Jul 5, 2018 at 13:25

You can reuse padded envelopes and mailers by donating them on BoxGiver.com. Hope that helps!


In the UK, most bubble wrap is LDPE and can be recycled in supermarkets along with other film and thin/"single-use" bags.

As others have said...it'd be best if we wean ourselves off disposable products altogether but that's a matter of writing emails to retailers and politicians and hoping for progress!

  • Welcome to Sustainable Living! Do supermarkets in your area also accept bubble wrap envelopes (combination of paper and plastic)?
    – THelper
    Mar 22, 2022 at 18:30

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