Can you recycle postal mail?

Throwing mail in the trash creates strain on municipal sanitation systems and fills landfills.

Can you recycle postal mail?
Photo by Sigmund / Unsplash

Sometimes it feels like a majority of my mail goes straight from the mailbox to the garbage bin. In fact, before I eliminated junk mail with Mel, I would sometimes toss out important notices by mistake because the letters were mixed in with coupons, catalogs, and credit card offers.

Throwing mail in the trash clearly isn’t ideal. It creates more strain on my municipal sanitation system and fills our landfills. Perhaps I could lessen the impact by recycling the mail?

Unfortunately, there are several barrier to recycling mail.

Credit Card Offers

Some of the solicitations that land in my mailbox contain unactivated credit cards. In addition to the privacy and security concerns regarding this practice, it makes recycling mail complicated. Credit cards are made of PVC, which is difficult to recycle. If you are going to recycle a credit card or membership offer, be sure to first remove the plastic card and separate it into the trash.

Window Envelopes

As I’ve written about before, window envelopes—the transparent plastic that reveals your address printed inside—cannot be recycled. Before tossing your junk mail in the recycling bin, be sure to remove the address windows.

Catalogs and Magazines

Luckily, you can generally recycle catalogs and magazines. However, if they are wrapped in a layer of protective plastic film, be sure to dispose of the plastic film separately as it is not recycle.

Even when recycling is an option, unfortunately there's no guarantee that your junk mail is being recycling properly. Bloomberg reported that shipping envelopes and items marked recyclable from the US were found among plastic trash piles in India and destined for industrial furnaces.

Amazon Packages Burn in India, Last Stop in Broken Recycling System
Plastic wrappers and parcels that start off in Americans’ recycling bins end up at illegal dumpsites and industrial furnaces — and inside the lungs of people in Muzaffarnagar.

There’s a better way!

Separating address windows and digging through credit card offers is not exactly a pleasant use of time. Instead, trying using Mel to eliminate junk postal mail. Simply snap a photo of your mail and text it to Mel, and you will be removed from the sender’s mailing list.