Is bubble wrap recyclable?

Bubble wrap is a plastic material which is used in protective packaging, just like Styrofoam. They are recyclable provided if their management by users is fully addressed and companies who want to continue distributing eco-friendly packages would go forward with a ‘go-green’ motto to use bubble wrap as a protective packaging material. 

Use of bubble wrap is so famous worldwide that a study in 2016 has stated that the global bubble wrap market was worth 6.82 billion US dollars, where its value is going to spike by 2023 with an estimated amount of about 10.7 billion US dollars. 

Although, the recycling part is not that easy as it appears since bubble wraps are essentially made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) which belong to category #4 of plastics. LDPE is very widely used in plastic bags from grocery stores, making plastic films, plastic wraps or air pillows.

These category #4 plastics are also not recycled via your curbside recycling bins in usual cases because they can clog recycling machinery if not disposed of properly and lead to environment related pollution. 

It is also important to note that recycling regulations may also vary from country to country and even one municipality to other where one should also consider checking if their local curbside garbage collection does involve category #4 plastics collection and recycling as well. You can check on the information on local municipal websites.

One should also diverge towards using potential alternate materials, if available, that can aid as an eco-friendly material in wrapping, packaging and shipping important goods. This can prove to be the best way to avoid plastic use and generate waste in the first place.

What to do with bubble wraps?

There are several ways which can be followed by a user to know what to do with bubble wraps, but before moving any further, a person should always pop all the air bubbles in a bubble wrap before moving forward with its treatment, these ways can are:

  • Reuse the bubble wrap for other requirements
  • Find a nearby recycling center that accepts recycling of category #4 plastics

Bubble wrap can be reused as

Reusing bubble wrap often proves to be a more easier and economical solution than recycling it since its cost and labour effective. Due to outstanding insulating and cushioning properties of bubble wraps, they can be reused in many ways with a few ideas mentioned below here:

  • Reusing them as a packaging material for household goods and materials.
  • They can be used to cushion breakable items and kept in storage cells.
  • Bubble wrap packaging for crockery items while travelling.
  • Insulation of house windows during the winter season.
  • Wrapping plants by bubble wrap can protect them from cold weather.
  • Use as a knee pad during exercise, gardening or other work that requires kneeling to the ground can aid in a more comfortable completion of daily chores.
  • It can also be used as a sleeping mat during camping outdoors.

Ways to recycle bubble wraps

The other option for the treatment of bubble wraps is recycling. One thing that needs to be clear in bubble wrap recycling is that it should not be disposed of at curbside recycling collections unless notified by a competent agency since most of the recycling facilities are not equipped with machinery and will not accept it. This will only cause bubble wrap piling in landfills. No worries, yet a few good and possible ways of bubble wrap recycling can be:

  • Grocery stores – Perhaps this can be the easiest way of recycling bubble wraps as some grocery stores have the facilities of bins to collect plastic bags. You can figure it out if a nearby store is providing such services.
  • Contacting recycling companies – There are several useful websites such as Earth 911 or recycle now. These websites provide services where you can look for a specific zero-waste program concerned with bubble wrap recycling. One can also filter it down for programs in their locality by using ZIP codes.

Why you should consider recycling bubble wraps

Environment sustainability is changing the ways we live and the harmony we can exercise with our planet to sustainably use the resources it provides. It is our duty to be sustainably aware and responsibly undertake treatment of those resources which are harmful to the environment and can become a nuisance once their services are over.

Plastic is one such resource and its proper treatment is a must. It poses several demerits during its production by utilising fossil fuels and can also pose a threat to the environment since it is non-biodegradable. 

  • Hence, it is a must to address the responsibility of disposing of plastic products such as bubble wraps efficiently through novel ways of reusing and recycling. This also helps in cutting down emission of fossil fuels for the production of bubble wrap.
  • Reusing and recycling also cuts down the pressure of bubble wraps and other category #4 plastics ending up in landfills. It cleans the air, makes it breathable and less garbage in landfills addressing a better land-use management.
  • Recycling is a growing industry on which millions of people are dependent. A study by GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) stated reusing and recycling creates 200 times and 70 times as many jobs as using landfills and incinerators respectively. 

Ideas for companies selling bubble wraps

Companies dependent on selling category #4 plastics such as bubble wraps can sustainably promote their products by 

  • Adding notes to packages where a customer can understand how important it is to reuse or recycle this product.
  • Instruction of how to recycle may also motivate customer’s decisions for recycling.
  • In some cases, if a company wishes, they can add a note into the package sharing their motivation towards sustainability.
  • Setting up a take-back policy where customers can reach out to company for bubble wrap recycling.

Conclusion

A better treatment of bubble wraps can help release pressure of waste disposal in landfills, conservation and can ultimately address environmental stewardship. New and sustainable ideas can always help in promoting a more sustainable use of bubble wrap where multiple novel ideas undertaken by companies and users can help into a proper recycling of these plastics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is bubble wrap recyclable?

Can you put bubble wrap in the recycle bin?

Yes, you can put bubble wrap in a recycle bin. There are several grocery stores which provide service of recycling bins where you can dispose of your bubble wrap and it will be processed for recycling. 

What do you do with bubble wrap?

The primary use of bubble wrap is as a protective packaging material with item deliveries. Although, there are many other ways through which it can be reused. You can use it to insulate your house windows, wrap around plants during winters, package household goods and material for storage or travel purposes. 

Is bubble wrap biodegradable?

Unfortunately, bubble wrap like any other plastic is not biodegradable and can end up accumulating in landfills. However, its proper treatment by a user via reusing or recycling can serve as an eco-friendly solution and aid in plastic management, natural resource conservation, decreased carbon emissions and portrays environmental stewardship.

Is bubble wrap bad for the environment?

Bubble wrap is frequent and most commonly used protective packaging material worldwide. Its non-biodegradable property and view of people towards it as single use plastic can make it a threat to the environment. Its proper management and promotion of reusing and recycling can help decrease the impact.

Can bubble wrap go in soft plastic recycling?

Yes, bubble wrap can be recycled through a proper process if you do not feel like reusing it. Through proper channels such as recycling bins in your nearby grocery stores or contacting companies in response to their take-back policies through platforms such as Earth 911 can make the recycling process easier.

Is bubble wrap good insulation?

Yes, bubble wrap in fact possesses very good cushioning and insulating properties. It can act as a good and successful material for insulation of house windows or protection of plants during winter season. Bubble wrap is dynamic in nature and can be reused for many other household material packaging. 

References 

DTE staff (2021, February 17), Zero waste systems can create thousands of jobs across the world: study. Down to earth. Retrieved from

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/waste/zero-waste-systems-can-create-thousands-of-jobs-across-world-study-75577#:~:text=The%20study%20found%3A,as%20using%20landfills%20and%20incinerators

Ian tiseo (2021), Global bubble wrap market value 2016 and 2023. Statista. Retrieved from

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1013196/global-market-value-of-bubble-wrap/

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