If you try your best to live by the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ philosophy, you’ve probably wondered about reusing envelopes. Maybe you’ve even received recycled mailing envelopes from a friend or family member and wondered how they turned their trash into correspondence treasure. If you’ve been wondering what to do with old envelopes, we’ve got just what you’re looking for.
Reusing envelopes isn’t just good for the environment, it can be good for your wallet, too. But how much of an impact does reusing envelopes make?
Let’s take a closer look at the true cost of envelopes.
Turning raw materials into envelopes requires specialized equipment and both renewable and non-renewable resources. By minimizing your need for new envelopes, you’re reducing waste that ends up in a landfill as well as minimizing the resources needed to produce them.
When it comes to raw materials, your average envelope starts off as a tree. Or many trees, to be precise.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Fancy and decorative envelopes like those used for wedding invitations are comprised of cotton, linen, or leaves rather than wood pulp. These feel softer to the touch, can be more durable over time, and offer delicate yet precise linen patterns.
When the wood arrives at the mill, it is ground up and turned into wood pulp and wood chips. These wood chips are combined with a liquid alkaline mixture (sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide) in a vat. This liquid is heated and put under intense pressure (116 pounds per square inch to be precise) for about two hours. The process digests the wood to create a slurry of water-wood syrup.
The liquid wood then goes through a bleaching process. Chemicals are added to the mixture to make the paper that will become bright and sparkling white envelopes. Eco-friendly envelopes skip the bleaching step, which makes them better for the environment (and explains why they’re brown).
Next in the paper-making process, envelope paper begins to fulfill its higher purpose, which differentiates it from typical paper. Fillers like clay, starch, rosin, and alum are added to the wood pulp to transform typical paper into the opaque, smooth, moisture-resistant paper used to keep your letters dry, secure, and intact during the mail process.
The paper is then spread very thin and the moisture is removed, resulting in long sheets of paper. These sheets are rolled and moved to an envelope processing facility.
After envelope paper passes the quality check process, it’s ready to be cut, folded, and glued. Machines do the majority of this work.
A strong glue formula made from corn, wheat, potato, rice, or other plants is used to hold the flaps of the envelope in place. If necessary, gum Arabic made from the acacia tree or fermented sugar is applied to the flap.
The envelopes are then boxed and shipped. Eventually, you place your letter inside, seal this beautiful piece of practical origami, add a stamp and slide it in the mailbox.
Eco-Friendly Envelopes and eco-friendly padded mailers are made with recycled newspapers. These can be popped right back into the recycle bin to start their journey again.
Manila or kraft paper envelopes are made from leaves from the manila tree.
As you probably noticed, a lot goes into the manufacturing of envelopes. From renewable to non-renewable resources and a lot of energy, each envelope you reuse reduces use of natural resources.
What impact does this process have on the Earth?
Let’s look at the stats:
How many trees does it take to produce envelopes?
What other impacts do envelopes have on the environment?
Envelopes that are gummed sealedor self-sealwith an adhesive can be recycled with your other paper products. The same is true for manila or catalog envelopes without a metal clasp. If your manila envelopes have a metal clasp, you can simply remove the metal pieces and recycle the paper part of the envelope.
Security envelopes with windowscan be recycled. The recycling process automatically handles the small bit of plastic on them. But if you want to ensure your envelopes won’t create additional waste, you can cut out or remove the plastic window before placing them in your recycling bin.
From fun kids’ crafts using envelopesto reusing envelopes for holiday gifts, we have some suggestions for how you can slow the waste cycle.
When a bill arrives, it often comes with a return envelope tucked inside. If you’re like the majority of people, you probably pay your credit card and other bills online or use automatic payments. So, how can you make this free envelope useful instead of wasteful?
By flipping them inside out! Here’s how.
Like regular envelopes, you can extend the life of a bubble mailer and recycle padded envelopes by flipping them inside out and taping them back together with shipping tape. Use a permanent marker and label to re-address them.
Sometimes we just have more old envelopes than we have letter and checks to send. If you’re looking for ways to recycle bubble wrap envelopes, we have some crafts and other eco-friendly ideas to keep the kids busy and the landfill a bit more envelope-free.
There are so many things to do with envelopes and ways to recycle padded envelopes and recycle bubble wrap envelopes. Luckily, many of them can make your life easier and more organized.
Don’t Buy Bubble Wrap
Crafts with Bubble Wrap or Padded Envelopes
Almost any craft that requires bubble wrap can be mimicked with a bubble padded mailer. Here are some extra cute crafts you might want to check out. The spider is adorable!
When it comes reusing envelopes, the possibilities are endless when you get creative. You can find almost unlimited activities when it comes to what to do with old envelopes.
Think outside the envelope when it comes to recycling and reusing those old, unused envelopes. Get crafty and compete with your neighbors for who can come up with the most original envelope mobile or shred those envelopes and place them in a small pot outside your door for fuzzy and feathered creatures to use for nesting materials.
When it comes to reducing waste, reuse your envelopes. Turn unproductive and pesky junk mail into free envelopes you can use, use, and use again.
While buying eco-friendly envelopes is a great beginning, recycled mailing envelopes will make a major impact when it comes to protecting our planet and environment. So, happy crafting, corresponding, and bursting those neat little bubbles on your bubble wrap envelopes.
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