Are Poly Mailers Eco Friendly? Important Questions (Answered)

Savanna Stanfield

Whether you run your own business or just love to shop online, you’ve probably encountered poly mailers at some point.

After all, they are commonly used to ship items such as clothing and other small goods. 

If you’re trying to run an eco-friendly business or you just want to make sure you’re disposing of them in an eco-friendly way, you may be wondering how eco-friendly poly mailers really are. 

In an overall sense, poly mailers are not eco-friendly simply due to the raw materials used to make them. 

In this article, we’ll examine the characteristics of poly mailers to determine why they aren’t eco-friendly.

We’ll also look at alternatives to poly mailers so that you can make the most eco-friendly choice.

What Are Poly Mailers Made Of?

As their name implies, poly mailers are made of polyethylene. 

Polyethylene is a durable plastic film that is moisture-resistant, lightweight, and thin – which is what makes it an ideal material to use for mailers.

Are Poly Mailers Good for Shipping?

Poly mailers are good for shipping for many reasons.

First of all, being durable prevents the mailer from tearing during shipping.

Another important quality for a mailer to have is moisture resistance because it means that your packages won’t get wet during transport as a result of rain or other moisture.

One of the best qualities about using polyethylene for mailers is that it is waterproof.

Shipping goods in a lightweight material also cuts down on the costs that the business or you as a consumer would have to pay for shipping.

Finally, being thin allows the mailer to take up less space on delivery trucks in addition to making it easier to fit into a mailbox.

How Are Poly Mailers Made?

Poly mailers are made through a process called extrusion. 

First, small plastic pellets are melted down which causes them to become more flexible. 

The pellets can be white or colored, which is why poly mailers can be found in different colors.

Next, the molten plastic is extruded – or pushed – through a circular mold called a die to form a long tube.

The thickness of the plastic tube is determined by how quickly it is pulled through the die.

The tube is then inflated with air to a certain size, with a width controlled by how much air is used to inflate it. The plastic tube is then cooled and flattened. 

Afterward, the flattened plastic can be left as-is or have images and patterns printed onto it through a process known as flexographic printing.

Finally, the film is run through a machine that creates the actual plastic mailer itself. 

This includes adding the adhesive seal as well as cutting the bags or leaving them on a continuous roll but perforated so that they can be easily separated.

What Are Poly Mailers Used For?

The main use for poly mailers is for shipping goods purchased through e-commerce. 

They come in many different sizes, but they are mostly used for shipping clothing, items that are not fragile and smaller items that can be compressed to fit into the mailer.

Non-clothing examples include jewelry, toys, movies, and video game discs and cartridges. 

Sometimes when ordering multiple goods from one company, smaller products will be placed inside a poly mailer which is then placed inside a box with larger items.

Are Poly Mailers Eco Friendly?

Overall, the process used to make poly mailers is mostly mechanical.

It isn’t terrible for the environment as far as involving the use of heavy chemicals and the potential for pollution.

However, the lack of eco-friendliness lies in the fact that all plastics come from refining crude oil.

Crude oil is a non-renewable resource that is collected by drilling. 

This can cause habitat destruction as well as the potential for pollution that can result from the collection and refinement of it.

And even though making the actual mailers themselves isn’t terrible for the environment, refining crude oil to make the plastic polyethylene pellets often involves the use of chemicals and heavy manufacturing processes.

This can contribute to pollution as well as high energy use.

Are Poly Mailers Recyclable?

The answer to this is both yes and no. Poly mailers can be recycled, but they often aren’t recycled through curbside programs.

Some types of polyethylene plastic can be recycled in curbside programs. 

But due to the thinness of poly mailers as well as having adhesives and other materials combined with the polyethylene – such as bubble wrap – some recycling facilities may not have the equipment needed to recycle them properly, nor can they afford the cost of it.

With that being said, you can often drop off poly mailers for recycling at the same places you can drop off plastic bags. 

Grocery and retail stores are common places where these drop-offs are located. 

This is because they often have large quantities of materials to be recycled which can then be taken to the appropriate recycling facilities.

For more information about recycling poly mailers as well as locating drop-off locations, check out plasticfilmrecycling.

Are Poly Mailers Sustainable?

Simply because they are made from crude oil, a non-renewable resource, poly mailers are not sustainable.

However, they are more sustainable if they are recycled because they can be used to make more products without the need to create more plastic from virgin crude oil.

Are Poly Mailers Biodegradable?

Most types of plastics, including polyethylene, can take a very long time to decompose if they decompose at all.

Because of this, we can consider poly mailers to not be biodegradable.

Are Poly Mailers Compostable?

Poly mailers are not compostable either.

If you try to add them to your compost, you will find that they do not decompose at all. 

Even if they did decompose, there would be the potential for chemicals to be released that could harm your compost.

Are Poly Mailers Reusable?

One of the benefits of poly mailers is that they can be reused.

But this is dependent upon a consumer opening the mailer carefully so that you don’t compromise its ability to be resealed.

We should start by saying that you can not reuse the adhesive strip on the poly mailer. 

But what you can do is cut open the top of the mailer carefully instead of tearing open the seal.

When you reuse the mailer, just follow the top of the mailer over and secure it with packing tape. 

The drawback to this is that you can’t reuse poly mailers forever as there will likely be a limited number of times that you can cut it open and reseal it with tape.

How to Dispose of Poly Mailers Properly

If you have a drop-off location that accepts poly mailers in your area, this is the best way to dispose of them so that they can be recycled.

Otherwise, the only way to dispose of them is to throw them away.

This is not ideal because they will go to a landfill and won’t biodegrade.

However, you don’t have many other disposal options available.

2 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Poly Mailers

There are a couple of eco-friendly alternatives to poly mailers.

However, you should be aware that they may not provide all of the qualities that poly mailers provide.

1. Paper Envelopes

Paper envelopes provide the same qualities as poly mailers in terms of being lightweight and thin so that they cost less to ship and can fit into mailboxes easier.

In most cases, they can be recycled or you can buy them from recycled materials to begin with. They are also biodegradable.

However, they are more likely to tear during shipping as well as get wet, so it’s important to make sure that the product inside the envelope is well-protected.

2. Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes provide durability in addition to coming in many different sizes.

They are also recyclable and biodegradable.

However, cardboard boxes often cost more to purchase and ship, and they take up more space so they often don’t fit into mailboxes. 

Plus, they aren’t waterproof so you’ll need to make sure the product inside is protected.

Conclusion

Poly mailers provide all of the qualities that you would want in the packaging used for shipping.

However, since they are made from plastic, they are not the most eco-friendly.

Sometimes poly mailers can be recycled or reused, but that is the only benefit they have as far as eco-friendliness is concerned.

There are more eco-friendly shipping container options, including cardboard and paper envelopes but they don’t provide all of the qualities that poly mailers do.

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