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How To Recycle Packaging From Online Shopping

Drawing on years of professional expertise in interior design, Ms. Menendez presently excels as the founder and president of Senom Design.

Executive Contributor Monserrat Menendez

With the rise of online shopping, convenience, and cost savings have become paramount. Instead of visiting showrooms or retail stores, consumers can now purchase items from the comfort of their homes. However, this surge in online shopping has led to an increase in packaging waste, contributing significantly to environmental issues. From boxes to bubble wrap, here’s how to dispose of your post-packaging sustainably.

Recycled box at the factory

The rise of online shopping and its environmental impact

Online shopping offers better deals and the convenience of home delivery, but it also results in a substantial amount of packaging waste. Seasonal sales, in particular, generate a lot of paper waste. According to Vox News, digital sales ballooned by 71 percent in the second quarter of 2020 and 55 percent in the third, leading to a wave of packages destined for landfills, incinerators, or the environment. Oceana reported that Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019, with significant portions ending up in freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Martina Igini, an Italian journalist and editor from Earth.Org, highlighted that product packaging contributes significantly to CO2 emissions, polluting ecosystems and adding enormous amounts of waste to landfills. Of the 86 million tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year, less than 14% is recycled.

Common types of packaging and how to recycle them at home cardboard

Cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle. Whether your delivery comes in a cardboard box or sleeve, you can place it in your household recycling bin. However, watch out for parcel tape, as it isn't recyclable. Remove as much tape as possible before recycling the cardboard. Recycling facilities can handle a small amount of tape, so don't worry if you can't remove it all.


Young kid playing on a cardboard box

Bubble wrap

If you're ordering fragile products, they often come with bubble wrap for extra padding. Bubble wrap is recyclable but not in your household bin. Instead, look for recycling drop-off points at your local supermarket, which often accepts bubble wrap along with plastic bags and film.

Young boy playing bubble wrap

Padded envelopes

Padded envelopes lined with bubble wrap are tricky because the lining cannot be separated from the outer packaging, making them non-recyclable. Instead, try to reuse these envelopes as much as possible.

Person holding padded envelope

Polystyrene foam beads

Polystyrene is mostly non-recyclable and is generally advised to be put in your general waste bin. However, some councils accept polystyrene if taken directly to their recycling centers. Check your local council's website to see if this service is available.

Polystyrene foam beads

Plastic polythene peel

Many retailers use plastic polythene peel for clothing deliveries. While this material can't be recycled in household bins, it can be taken to specialist recycling points. Recycle Now states that plastic bags used for new clothing can be taken to carrier bag collection points, often found in supermarkets.

Plastic polythene peel


Several types of paper may be included in your online deliveries:

  • Brown wrapping paper: Recyclable at home but be careful not to confuse it with colored wrapping paper, which often isn't recyclable due to dyes and additives.

  • Tissue paper: This can be recycled in your household bin or reused for gift wrapping.

  • Shredded paper: Surprisingly, shredded paper isn't recyclable at home as it can interfere with recycling machinery. Instead, take it to a specialist recycling point or use it for composting or animal bedding if it's clean.

Shredded paper

Reducing packaging waste at home

To contribute to environmental sustainability, consider reusing and repurposing packaging materials. Reuse boxes for storage, and bubble wrap for padding fragile items during future moves or shipments. Repurpose cardboard for crafts or as protective covers. Additionally, adopt minimalist shopping habits to reduce unnecessary packaging waste.


What are the industry efforts to reduce packaging waste?

Manufacturers and e-commerce retailers are actively reducing packaging to cut costs and environmental impact. Some are using shrink-wrap instead of cardboard, while others are avoiding the "Russian doll" method of nesting multiple boxes within a larger one. With more items being shipped directly to consumers, fewer products are being boxed and shipped to retail stores, which helps explain why cardboard consumption is holding steady despite the rise in e-commerce.

A pile of cardboard to be recycled

In conclusion, properly disposing of and recycling packaging from online shopping is crucial for environmental sustainability. By following these recycling tips and adopting mindful shopping habits, we can all contribute to reducing waste and protecting our planet. Plus always choose to do an online pick up or better yet a family trip to go on store and do selections. Let's make a conscious effort to recycle responsibly and support eco-friendly practices in our daily lives.


Monserrat Menendez, Interior Designer

Drawing on years of professional expertise in interior design, Ms. Menendez presently excels as the founder and president of Senom Design. Through Senom, she aims to make projects not only beautiful, but sustainable, healthy, and approachable. Similarly, she specializes in turnkey rentals and property staging, custom product design, pre-construction, and more working with Iconic Modern Home in the Hamptons, New York City and Connecticut.



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