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Is Bubble Wrap Recyclable? We Give You The Lowdown on This ‘Irresistible’ Packaging

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Bubble wrap seems to be one type of packaging that brings out the inner child in every adult. You simply cannot resist popping a few air bubbles before you discard it.

But as is the case with all packaging materials, the big question is which one of your bins should it go into.

The big question is whether it's suitable for recycling.

And since not all plastic bags and styrofoam are suitable for the circular economy, I decided to dig into this packaging a bit more.

First, Let's Clarify Things: What is Bubble Wrap?

Bubble wrap is one of the most commonly used types of packaging products. This is mainly the case because it's a light material and very effective for keeping breakable things safe in transport.

If you've ordered smart home light bulbs or new cocktail glasses, the chances are that the businesses you ordered from wrapped it up in bubble packaging.

As with many other household goods, bubble wrap is actually a trademark, but the term is used in a similar way to how people look for a Kleenex when they sneeze.

Half a tape and scissor on plastic

It was accidentally invented in the 1950s and quickly became popular in the packaging industry — from grocery stores to electronics companies. [1]

Can You Recycle Bubble Wrap?

Yes, you can recycle bubble wrap, and many places like San Francisco now accept it in the blue bins along with plastic bags. This is according to the latest Recology guidelines.

Many upgraded services now have recycling machinery that can separate the different types of plastics to then provide them as raw input for the plastic industry.

In many cases, mixed plastics end up back in the packaging industry, especially for making grocery bags.

Bubble wrap is also a much more recyclable option than styrofoam peanuts, which still need to head to a landfill. 

According to the EPA, 8.5% of plastic material generated in the U.S. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream was recycled in 2018.


Rick LeBlanc, Writer at The Balance Small Business

How to Recycle Bubble Wrap

So, we've addressed the question, "is bubble wrap recyclable?" Now, our attention turns to how you go about it.

If your local community waste collection service doesn't cover it in their Recology guide, [2] then you need to look for programs offered by a recycling center.

Globe wrapped in plastic packaging being held by a hand

To help with this, you can use GreenCitizen's Green Directory where you can simply enter your zip code and the type of product you're trying to recycle.

Alternatively, some stores allow their customers to leave the packaging material in-store, where they take care of the recycling.

It's best to ask about what type of plastic packages and products they accept, and then just return them if it's a more convenient solution. 

Other Ways to Reuse or Dispose of Bubble Wrap

Just like with plastic bags, reuse is the best way to avoid more unnecessary waste.

If you regularly send packages to friends and family, then keep them stored in boxes rather than throwing them in the bin.

And a great idea I got from a small local retailer is to ask your local stores if they need this type of plastic.

In many cases, it can save them some money when they are wrapping up boxes to keep household items or a delicate article safe for sending to customers.

It's one of the easiest things to do and often more effective than heading to a dedicated collection point.

FAQ

Can you put bubble wrap in the recycling bin?

Yes, you can put bubble wrap in the recycling bin in some cities and counties. You should check for more information with your recycling program to determine exactly what type of plastic they allow.

What can I do with leftover bubble wrap?

You can keep some leftover bubble wrap for reuse, as it's a convenient plastic for sending delicate items. Alternatively, you should consider recycling it with a local service provider.

Does Tesco recycle bubble wrap?

Yes, Tesco recycles bubble wrap along with other plastic materials. Check for a note at the front of the stores that will list out all the allowed materials or call your local store for information.

How long will bubble wrap last?

Bubble wrap will last many years as it's a very durable type of plastic. Much of this will depend on how much it gets knocked around during use for shipping or moving breakable goods.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article will have given you enough information to decide how to best reuse and recycle any bubble wrapping material that you receive.

Residents in San Francisco and much of the Bay Area have the easiest option of placing it in their blue bins, but many other areas offer the same option.

Find out what your choices are by using the Green Directory and make sure that you avoid more unnecessary plastic waste ending up in the ocean. 


References

  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/accidental-invention-bubble-wrap-180971325/
  2. https://www.recology.com/recology-san-mateo-county/hard-to-recycle/


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