Can You Recycle Envelopes With Plastic Windows? (Guide)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

We all know that we need to be more environmentally friendly, but sometimes, the various rules of recycling can make it feel more like a science than a simple lifestyle choice. Even a simple thing, like envelopes with plastic windows, might leave you questioning which bin it should go in. 

However, don’t worry, we’re here to help you determine whether you can recycle or reuse these common mail items so they don’t end up in overflowing landfills! So continue reading to learn more information!

Can You Recycle Envelopes with Plastic Windows?

Envelopes with plastic windows, also known as address windows, are recyclable. While the plastic itself is not recyclable, most post-consumer paper mills will remove the contaminant (meaning the plastic) themselves before recycling. However, if you’re concerned, you can always remove and discard the plastic window beforehand and only recycle the envelope.

In this article, you’ll learn what materials are recyclable on these envelopes, how you can recycle them, and what eco-friendly innovations are available for these items, so continue reading! 

Are Envelopes With Plastic Windows Recyclable?

Yes, envelopes with plastic windows, or address windows, are recyclable. 

However, you might want to take precautions with these items to ensure they are recycled properly instead of unnecessarily disposed of in the garbage.

For the most part, paper is always recyclable as long as it is clean, free of any food waste or oily residue, and larger than a post-it note in size. 

While some exceptions, such as Christmas wrapping paper made with foil or metallic materials, you can be fairly confident that any paper product should be bound for the recycling bin. 

Furthermore, since envelopes with plastic windows are made mostly of paper, you can recycle them. 

Of course, the element that trips people up is that plastic window. 

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Therefore, you might be wondering if you need to remove it before recycling the envelope, and the answer is not necessarily. 

The windows on these envelopes are typically made from a plastic or bi-oriented polystyrene film.

While this material in itself isn’t recyclable, most post-consumer paper mills are equipped with systems and technology that can remove this small contaminant while recycling the envelope. 

However, if you want to increase the envelope’s chances of being fully recycled, then it is best to remove the window and throw it out yourself before recycling the envelope. 

Where Do I Recycle Envelopes With Plastic Windows?

Luckily, envelopes with plastic windows are one of the easiest items to recycle. 

Furthermore, they can go in the recycling designated to your residency to be left on the curbside for pick-up on a scheduled basis. 

Most companies will recycle these envelopes without an issue, but if you’re uncertain, you can research your recycling company online. 

Fortunately, they should have materials and items that are and aren’t recyclable listed on their official website. 

What If There Isn’t A Recycling Service Near Me?

An unfortunate reality about recycling is that recycling collection services aren’t always available nationwide, and sometimes, the materials or objects you’re allowed to recycle are limited. 

However, if you truly want to recycle envelopes with plastic windows, but there isn’t a convenient collection service available to you, there are still options you can pursue. 

Furthermore, the best plan of action is to store up mass amounts of these envelopes in a bag, just like saving bottles and cans to be turned in for money at supermarkets. 

Then, once you have a decent amount, find the nearest recycling company and see if you can drop off the bag of envelopes there.

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For those who live in a small town, the nearest recycling company that allows drop-offs might be in an adjourning town or the closest city, so be prepared to drive a little. 

While this isn’t the most convenient process, we guarantee that the drive to recycle this large number of envelopes is well worth the effort. 

How Can I Tell If Other Envelopes Are Recyclable? 

How Can I Tell If Other Envelopes Are Recyclable? 

Given the wide range of objects and materials created by humanity, it can be difficult to discern one recyclable item from one that is not and understand the criteria behind both. 

However, a majority of items will have numerical stamps that indicate whether they are recyclable, what material the item is made of, and whether it is considered safe. 

When it comes to envelopes, some will have these stamps located on the backside of the envelope, especially if it was used for some packaging and doesn’t contain built-in bubble wrap. 

Generic mailing envelopes, on the other hand, don’t usually have these stamps on themselves. 

Although it might be on the box, that doesn’t always help the user. 

However, to clear any confusion, the majority of advertising mail, envelopes with plastic windows, and paper padded envelopes can all be recycled. 

If there is any plastic cover or internal components, try to remove these beforehand. 

Are There Any Envelopes With Windows That Are 100% Recyclable?

Some love using envelopes and other paper products for composting or bonfires to reuse them or prevent them from entering landfills, but the plastic window can pose a challenge. 

Fortunately, an innovation has been introduced so that these windowed envelopes can be biodegradable and 100% recyclable. 

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Furthermore, Ecolope envelopes are eco-friendly envelopes that feature a transparent window made entirely from corn starch known as polylactic acid (PLA).

As a result, they are certified as fully compostable, which effectively increases the reuse opportunities for these common items and significantly decreases their environmental impact. 

While these envelopes aren’t particularly common yet, they indicate we can continue to discover new ways to replace non-recyclable materials with biodegradable alternatives.

Additionally, environmentally oriented companies are eager to see other companies utilize these Ecolopes instead of their typical plastic windowed envelopes. 

Sadly, considering they are significantly more expensive to make and sell, it’ll be quite some time before they are normalized within businesses and society. 

Still, they demonstrate that alternatives are out there as long as people take the time to look for them. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle bubble mailers, whether you can recycle cellophane, and whether you can recycle air pillows.


While it is certainly easier to toss an everyday object like an envelope with a plastic window into the trash, we strongly urge you to reconsider. In 2018, paper and cardboard made up 12% of landfill material, and much of this is people assuming something can’t be recycled and tossing it. 

Furthermore, envelopes with plastic windows can be recycled easily through your neighborhood recycling company which will usually collect them weekly. Also, even if you leave the plastic window intact, the envelope will be successfully recycled.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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