Can You Recycle Window Envelopes
Recycle | Zero Waste

Can You Recycle Window Envelopes? (You May Be Surprised!)

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Whether you’re new to recycling or have been doing it religiously for years, there are still items that can leave you scratching your head. Windowed envelopes are the perfect example. They’re mostly paper, so can they go with paper? Do you need to remove the window? If so, where does the window go? To help make life easy, we’ve created an easy guide to help you figure out what to do with everything from pizza boxes to bubble wrap envelopes.

So, can you recycle window envelopes? The answer is yes. You can separate the plastic window if you want, but you don’t have to.

Paper Recycling

Most homes end up with large piles of paper, most of which come through the letterbox. Knowing what you can and can’t recycle is essential. Just because something is made of paper doesn’t mean that it can go into the recycling box.

Pile of letters and window envelopes

When it comes to paper, there’s an easy test. If the paper feels waxy or has a shine to it, it’s likely been treated with some chemicals. This chemical coating means that you can’t recycle it. A prime example is wrapping paper. Most commercial wrapping paper can’t be recycled. However, you can find recyclable wrapping paper.

The next time you decide what to do with your junk mail, give it a feel before you bin it. If it’s waxy, throw it in the trash. Otherwise, it can go in the recycling, along with your paper envelopes, paper bags, and mixed paper.

There is one exception to the feel test. That’s paper towels, tissue, and napkins. Basically, anything that might be contaminated with waste should be.

All cardboard can be recycled, whether it’s a cardboard box from Amazon or a pizza box from your local takeaway. If you’ve hesitated to put pizza boxes in the recycling, you’re not alone. There have been a lot of mixed messages about pizza boxes. But a recent study has found that no matter how much grease or cheese is on the box, it can still be effectively recycled.

There is one last thing to mention when it comes to shredded paper. It’s reasonable to assume that shredded paper would be easier to recycle. Unfortunately, it’s actually harder. The shredded paper tends to clog the machines in recycling plants. So if you don’t need to shred paper before it goes into your recycling container, it’s best not to bother.

Plastic Recycling

A lot of the items we consume come in plastic packaging. This means figuring out which plastic you can recycle is important. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it could be to figure out. The symbol of three arrows with a number in the middle is just telling you what type of plastic it is. Many people think it means it’s recyclable.

All number 1 plastics are recyclable. These plastics include things like plastic bottles and some yogurt pots. Plastics with numbers 2 and 4 on them can be recycled, but not everywhere does. Examples of these are plastic containers, like ice cream tubs and milk jugs. 

It’s important to note that even if you have a plastic bag with 2 or 4 on it, you will probably not be able to recycle it. Most local authorities don’t take them. This is because plastic bags tend to clog up the insides of recycling machines.

Bottle caps

Bottle caps are another item that falls into a bit of a grey area. Some recycling facilities will take plastic caps while others will just throw them out. 

The final thing to mention is black plastic. Practically no recycling centers will accept black plastic. This is for two main reasons. Firstly their automated systems can’t screen it well, and secondly, it has added chemicals that can taint the final products.

How To Recycle Mixed Materials

If you have items like bubble wrap envelopes or an envelope with a plastic window, it can be hard to know what to do. If in doubt, your best option is to separate the materials and deal with them separately.

There are, however, some exceptions to these rules. Most recycling centers are getting really good at filtering out unwanted items that can get mixed in. This means they can deal with the plastic window from an envelope and even a few paper clips.

General Recycling Tips

When it comes to recycling, it’s always important to check what your local area accepts. Depending on the recycling plant used, there may be different restrictions. But, some general rules are valid in almost all places.

Firstly, it’s best to avoid bagged recyclables. The bags can get caught in the recycling machinery. This causes the whole recycling process to stop, which wastes a lot of energy. If you’re provided with a recycling container, then it’s best to use that one to put out your curbside recycling. It keeps things easy for the workers at the recycling center.

Kids sorting recyclable materials

If you’re unsure if something can be recycled, the first thing to do is check if there is a recycling symbol on it. When you can’t find one, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it in with your regular trash. If a batch of recyclables is contaminated, then it all goes to waste.

Do remember to double-check your recycling, especially if you have kids in your home. You don’t want dangerous items like aerosol cans ending up in your recycling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the windows in envelopes made of?

They can be made from a variety of different materials. Most are made from a type of plastic called BOPS (Bi-Oriented Polystyrene Film)

Can you shred envelopes with plastic windows?

It’s a good idea to avoid shredding envelopes with windows. The plastic can cause the mechanism of the shredder to jam.

What can you do with used envelopes?

Since recycling is not a totally efficient process, it can be a good idea to reuse rather than recycle. Old envelopes are great for storing receipts you need to shred so you can do it all in one go. They work as bookmarks and makeshift note pads. If your kids love to doodle, give them the back of an envelope to decorate instead of a new sheet of paper.

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