Recycling Paper Products

Recycling Your Mail

How to Recycle Common Paper-based Items from your Mailbox

Many of us have a pile somewhere in our homes where we stack our mail. Bills, advertisements, magazines and catalogs, direct mail and maybe an exciting online purchase that came in a padded envelope. With some of these items, you may be wondering if it is okay to toss them in your recycling bin.  Here is some general guidance on how to recycle common items found in your household mailbox.
  • Advertising Mail: In general, most advertising mail pieces are recyclable. If the flyer, letter, envelope or other pieces are made from regular paper are printed on cardstock or even on thinner paperboard, you can recycle them. Some pieces that have foil or certain coatings cannot be recycled in most areas. If they have sticker tabs on them to keep the paper folded in half, it’s always best to remove the stickers, but they can go in the bin. Also, if your advertising mail contains plastic such as fake credit cards, sample return address labels or sensitive information, do not toss those items in the recycling bin.
  • Envelopes with Address Windows: Though it doesn’t hurt to remove the plastic piece, most paper recycling facilities don’t have a problem recycling these. During the pulping process, the pieces that don’t belong like staples, paperclips and these plastic windows are filtered out.
  • Paper Padded Envelopes: If the padded envelope is padded with what looks like shredded newsprint, you can toss the whole thing in your recycling bin. If the envelope is padded with bubble wrap or plastic, the envelope cannot be recycled unless you separate the plastic from the paper envelope. The plastic can usually be returned where you would take your plastic bags. Here’s a great resource about the plastic inserts. Some padded envelopes are tricky. The paper could have a special coating, or it could actually be plastic and not paper. So, we also recommend checking for a How2Recycle label that’s usually on the envelope.
  • Catalogs and Magazines: If the catalog or magazine came in a plastic wrapper, take off the wrapper first and then you can put the entire thing in the recycling bin. Binding, staples, perfume samples, cardstock ads and all. What doesn’t belong is usually sorted out at the paper recycling facility or in the pulping process.
  • Newspapers (advertisements, local or national papers): Some neighborhoods send out a weekly paper with grocery store coupons on newsprint. Others receive their local or a national paper each morning. If it is newsprint or even a glossy paper coupon, it can go in your recycling bin!

Remember: when it doubt, throw it out. “Wishcycling”—the act of putting something in your recycling bin in the hope that someone, somewhere will figure out what to do with it along the way—actually impedes the recycling process. Non-recyclables can jam up recycling machines and contaminate paper, preventing otherwise recyclable paper items from being made into new products.

In 2014, 96 percent of the U.S. population has access to community curbside and/or drop-off recycling services. If you have questions about what’s accepted in your local municipality, check out or our website to find your state government link.

Related Items:
Wishcycling Video