How to Dispose of Packaging Material Responsibly

How to Dispose of Packaging Material Responsibly

Even if you’re living the zero/low-waste lifestyle, you’ll probably still make occasional online purchases — which means you’ll need to be aware of environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of and recycle packaging material.

In this post you will learn how to:

Here at Good Soul Shop, we only ship with kraft boxes, tape, and paper packing materials. Many of our products are package free, and if we do have packaging, it's recyclable paper or cardboard material.

But what about other online retailers? How can you purchase items online and still follow zero/low-waste practices?

reuse what you can

Re-Use What You Can

If you’re able to, keep items like cardboard boxes that you can reuse to help a friend move, or to use when you’re shipping your own packages. Ideally, you’ll never have to buy your own shipping material as you’ll be saving what’s sent to you.

Cardboard boxes can be re-used in a variety of ways, such as containers for your recyclable items, or for gardening tools or materials.

Responsibly Recycle

Responsibly Recycle

If you can’t reuse an item, there are ways to recycle or compost different materials:

  • Cardboard boxes. Break down your cardboard boxes, and recycle them. Alternatively, you can cut up cardboard into small pieces and incorporate it into your compost pile.
  • Brown packing paper. You can reuse this kind of paper as a weed barrier, and while it technically can be composted, you may want to stick to other materials as some brown packing paper (also known as ‘kraft paper’) is waxed in the manufacturing process. Stick to recycling or reusing. Kraft paper can make for great drawing paper for children, too.
  • Plastic packing tape. In most cities, you don’t have to remove tape from cardboard boxes before recycling, as this is part of the recycling processing. Plastic tape itself is not recyclable. Make the swap to paper packing tape if you are doing the boxing.
  • Paper packing tape. Water-activated paper packing tape, on the other hand, is biodegradable and recyclable, and you can recycle or compost.
  • Styrofoam peanuts. Check to make sure the peanuts are truly styrofoam. Many companies have switched to water soluble cornstarch peanuts. You can soak these in some water and dispose of them as you would any waste water. Before dissolving, save your peanuts for your own personal shipping reuse, or you can contact local shippers in your area and offer to donate the packing peanuts you have. This is a great way to give these shipping peanuts a more circular life rather than sending them straight to the landfill. 
  • Plastic packing airbags. These plastic bags with air inside them often have little recycling symbols on them, and sometimes can be recycled. Know that you may need to separate these plastic airbags and recycle them separately from your general recyclables — check your city’s recycling program. Otherwise, keep them and reuse for shipments of your own! 
  • Insulated/bubble wrap packing envelopes. Envelopes that are insulated with built-in plastic wrap can be tricky: mixed materials don’t recycle well and are generally always sent to landfill. Opt for paper envelopes that are padded with paper fibers. Or make your own stuffing with newspaper sent through the shredder. If you receive one of these envelopes with bubble wrap, you can open the layers to remove the plastic wrap and recycle the paper.
  • Bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is another one of those items that can be recycled, but most likely cannot go on your curbside delivery recycle bin (but be sure to check with the regulations in your city.) Bubble wrap is a great reusable item, perfect for protecting breakable items during a move or in storage. But if you are the one doing the packing and don't have extra bubble wrap laying around, opt for other compostable materials instead.

Remember to be up-to-date with your city’s recycling guidelines, as curbside and drop-off recycling can differ in terms of materials each one accepts. Some community programs have stopped recycling glass and plastic. Research your options and they may include going outside of your weekly trash pickup programs. Happy recycling!

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