is bubble wrap recyclable

If you’re wondering is bubble wrap recyclable? The short answer is yes. Although it isn’t accepted in most curbside recycling programs, there are a few ways to recycle bubble wrap, as well as great options to reuse and repurpose it.

Can you recycle bubble wrap?

Like materials such as Styrofoam and CDs, bubble wrap is difficult, though not impossible to recycle.

Bubble wrap is classified as plastic film for recycling purposes, the same category as plastic bags, shrink wrap, and soft plastic bags. Bubble wrap specifically is categorized as RIC #4, for low-density polyethylene materials (LDPE).

bubble wrap
Source: Wikimedia / Consequencefree

LDPE is not accepted by most municipal recycling programs. Worst still, bubblewrap can clog recycling processing machinery, potentially costing the facility thousands of dollars in lost productivity and damaged equipment.

For this reason, many localities don’t accept bubble wrap in their regular recycling programs. However, many recycling centers do accept bubble wrap and you can drop off any other soft plastics you have such as plastic bags and soft plastic wrappers at the same time.

Can you recycle bubble mailers?

Bubble mailers are generally recyclable, but, like bubble wrap, need specific handling. Mailers that are made entirely from bubble wrap can be recycled in.

If you have a paper or cardboard mailer that is lined with bubble wrap, you’ll need to check with the recycling center or drop off location if they’ll accept it. If they say yes, be sure to check if you need to do anything special to prepare the mailer for recycling.

In all cases, you should make sure the mailer is clean, dry, and completely empty before submitting it for recycling.

What should you do with old bubble wrap?

When you open a parcel and unwrap your goodies, you probably toss the packaging to the side. However, eventually you’ll need to do something with that bubble wrap.

Thankfully, there are responsible ways that you can dispose of old bubble wrap without damaging the environment.

Recycle it

Use a finder tool: such as Earth 911, Plastic Film Recycling, or Recycle Now to find a recycling center in your area that accepts bubble wrap. If the finder tool doesn’t list bubble wrap as a search option, look for “plastic carrier bags” or “plastic wrap” as these are usually considered as the same material for recycling purposes.

You can also check with your local grocery stores and pharmacies to see if they have a plastic bag recycling program that also accepts bubble wrap.

How to recycle bubble wrap:

  • Find a recycling center or grocery store near you that accepts bubble wrap for recycling.
  • Remove other packaging materials such as labels and dispose of them sustainably. For example, paper labels can be recycled or composted.
  • Pop all the air bubbles from the bubble wrap to avoid clogging the recycling machinery.
  • Bundle up the bubble wrap with any other soft plastics you have and drop them off at the recycling center or store it ready for pick up.

Reuse it

Reusing your old bubble wrap is an even more sustainable solution than recycling it. Reuse should always be your first response, as recycling involves use of resources and typically some degree of wastage.

a person wrapping a bowl into a bubble wrap
Bubble wrap is a durable packaging material that can be easily reused multiple times.

Here are some ideas for reusing bubble wrap:

  • Store it for your next move or trip.
  • Give it to friends or family members who are planning a move or put an add on Freecycle.
  • Use it to wrap gifts.
  • Cover your compost bin with bubble wrap for better decomposition and to protect the contents.
  • Wrap it around the handles of your broom, mop, and garden tools for better grip and to avoid blisters.
  • Line planters or pots with bubble wrap to protect your plants from frost in winter.
  • Use it for craft projects like a poppable bubble calendar.

Alternatives to bubble wrap

Although it is possible to recycle bubble-wrap, the best solution is to avoid having to recycle it in the first place by using sustainable alternatives. Great alternatives include corrugated paper, old newspapers, mushroom packaging, and biodegradable packing peanuts.

Of course, most of the time, we don’t choose to use bubble wrap per se. Usually, we end up with bubble wrap because it came in the mail or with a delivery.

However, we can still avoid this kind of bubble wrap use by choosing to shop with vendors who emphasize sustainable packaging or buying products locally wherever possible.

Final thoughts

The short answer to the question “is bubble wrap recyclable?” is yes. However, you’ll probably need to find a drop off program or recycling center as this material is typically not accepted in curbside recycling.

It’s better to reuse bubble wrap if possible, whether for packaging, garden, around the house, or for craft projects. Better still, you can avoid bubble wrap entirely by using sustainable alternatives and looking for online stores that use eco-friendly packaging.

If you’d like to learn how to recycle other kinds of packaging, take a look at our post on how to recycle Amazon packaging.

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