How to Recycle Packaging Materials [Infographic]

Learn how to recycle common packaging materials – and how we make it easier on you and the environment.

Online product deliveries have become a regular part of many daily and professional lives, with more and more packages shipped with the click of a button. But with the convenience of free two-day shipping comes one glaring issue: excessive packaging waste. Given the variety of packaging materials used – think boxes, bubble wrap, air pillows, packing peanuts, and more – it can be challenging to know what can be recycled and how.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to recycle various types of packaging materials in your shipments, and how our approach to sustainable packaging is helping to reduce this waste and preserve environmental resources, one order at a time. Learn how to properly recycle various types of packaging materials.

Cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes and cardboard folders can be recycled in most curbside recycling, but you’ll want to remove any tape from the boxes beforehand. The City of Madison also requests that you flatten all cardboard boxes and place them directly inside your recycling bin. For boxes that don’t fit, they should be flattened, cut down to a 3’ X 3’ size, and tied in bundles.

Have you noticed that, whenever possible, EZOP delivers in reusable plastic totes instead of cardboard boxes? This helps save you the time it’d take to breakdown and recycle the cardboard, and also reduces your delivery’s carbon footprint.

Bubble Wrap®

Bubble wrap can be recycled, but not through your traditional recycling bin. Because this material is usually made up of a #4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film, many recycling centers – including Madison’s – can’t accept this material curbside. Instead, you’ll need to look for a designated drop-off location, often found at the entrance of grocery stores and pharmacies. Use this drop-off location finder for the closest location to you.

There are also multiple ways you can reuse bubble wrap before choosing to recycle. For example, you could insulate paper bags with it on place it in a refrigerator door to prevent fruit from bruising. Gardens, kitchens, and bathrooms are other areas of the home and office that can benefit from bubble wrap reuse. Rose Molz, founder of EZ Office Products, even reuses bubble wrap to prevent her tall boots from slouching!

Air pillows

Air pillows often contain plastic film, making them another item that’s difficult to recycle. While some programs allow for curbside pickup – minus the plastic film – we suggest choosing a designated drop-off location that accepts this packaging material. Make sure you first pop the air out of the pillow before bringing it to the drop-off.

According to the City of Madison program, some larger pillow packing is allowed for curbside recycling, so be sure to contact your local pickup to confirm whether it’s okay.

Packing peanuts

Packing peanuts, or “popcorn,” require special care for recycling and disposal. Because they often become one of the most common sources of marine debris, we recommend first trying to reuse this packaging material instead of tossing it. You can save them for your company’s shipping needs or allow your colleagues to use them for personal gift-wrapping or crafts. You can also contact local schools and churches to see if they can be donated for reuse in art projects.

If you absolutely need to dispose of packing peanuts, look for a drop-off location that accepts this material. Most shipping stores accept this material for reuse, but they may require a minimum quantity. EPS Industry Alliance Packaging is one place that you can go to give packing peanuts a new life – view their map to find the closest Wisconsin location to you.


Styrofoam cannot be recycled curbside and requires disposal at a designated drop-off site (find Madison locations here). If you have smaller pieces of Styrofoam from your online order, the city requests that you bag it in a clear or white bag to prevent material from blowing around during the recycling process.

Padded mailers

Padded paper mailers are recyclable, just like cardboard boxes and other paper materials. While many curbside programs allow this packaging material, the city of Madison does not. Therefore, you’ll need to look for a drop-off location that accepts this material to recycle it properly.

As you can see, learning how to recycle packaging materials is not only mind-boggling, but it’s also just plain wasteful. So, we have a more sustainable solution for you.

The sustainable way

While recycling packaging materials from your shipments is undoubtedly better than not, the best option is to reduce your use of these materials through sustainable packaging – or no packaging at all. We’ve taken this idea to heart by delivering all your office supply orders in reusable plastic totes instead of boxes that we carry away for another use once your order is unloaded. We also choose suppliers that use minimal packaging and don’t add any unnecessary packing materials to our orders.

When we’re at your office for a delivery, we’ll also ask if you have any recyclable materials that you’d like us to recycle for you – most at no charge! These seemingly small initiatives go a long way in refusing and reducing the amount of packaging material used at Madison-area businesses every day.

For more articles on recycling office supplies and other tips for encouraging sustainability in the workplace, check out our blog today.

Shop for eco-friendly office supplies online from our environmentally responsible suppliers now or call our local customer concierge to set up your business account at (608) 310-4300 today.