Friday, July 9, 2010

Recycling: Mail

Someone asked me a great question the other day:

Can you recycle the little plastic windows in envelopes? Or do you have to take the time to cut them out to recycle the envelope? (argh!)

Answer: In most places, the plastic window can be recycled. It depends on your area, but most post-consumer paper mills have systems that can take out these small amounts of contaminants.

So the US and UK, you have to check with your provider, but generally it is okay.

From UK's Royal Mail's site:

Greetings cards
Greetings cards can be included with other paper items and recycled via your local authority’s kerbside collections or at your nearest paper bank.  The cards will be recycled into newspapers, paper towels and writing paper. Please note, not all local authorities are able to collect greetings cards, so please check your local authority’s recycling website for more information.
Padded envelopes
Only padded envelopes made from 100% paper can be recycled. If yours aren’t, you can still reuse them by putting a sticker over the address and adding a new stamp.   
Window envelopes
Most envelopes with plastic windows can be recycled with the rest of your paper. If in doubt, cut out the window part of the envelope and recycle the rest. Some local authorities don’t collect any envelopes due to the glue. If this is the case in your area, simply remove the windows and add the envelopes to your compost bin.
Stamps attached to envelopes can be recycled with the rest of your paper.  As an alternative, why not start a stamp collection?
Bills and statements
Please beware of identity theft! It’s a good idea to shred all bills and statements. Then, either compost the shredded paper or recycle it via your local authority’s kerbside collections or at your nearest paper bank.
Polywrap envelopes
These are the transparent wrappers that magazines and catalogues are sometimes delivered in.  Most local authorities do not accept polywraps for recycling. However, many companies now use biodegradable polywraps.  This means that you can throw them away with your rubbish and they will degrade quickly when they’re sent to landfill.  Alternatively, you can add them to your compost bin.
Shredded mail
Although some local authorities will accept shredded paper, others are reluctant to do so for the following reasons:

  1. Shredded paper can blow away, creating a litter problem 
    2. Shredded paper can cause maintenance problems with recycling machinery  
    3. Some recycling machinery is unable to separate the shredded paper from other items 
    If your local authority will collect shredded paper, you can stop it blowing away by putting it in a paper bag or wrapping it in an old newspaper. If your local authority doesn’t accept shredded paper, one option is to not shred it in the first place so you can recycle your paper in the usual ways. Home composting is a good alternative, especially if you’re worried about identity theft. 

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