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YES! But How? :: Eco-Mail: Reuse Envelopes

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Recycled Envelope

Here is another easy idea to recycle all those junk mail envelopes. See the tutorial at


Can I reuse envelopes I get in the mail? How do I do it correctly?

You can not only mail envelopes again, you can also use them to help make your life more organized and eco-friendly.

Planet Green and the solution-oriented folks at have some ideas. To keep an envelope fit for mailing, carefully turn it inside out or unfold it completely and glue it back together with the inside facing out. This not only conceals the addresses, but also the barcodes that could send a recycled envelope in the wrong direction. If you’re not so handy with the folding, use a label to cover the addresses and black permanent ink to cover the barcodes at the bottom. You can also cut out images from old magazines to cover addresses and repair torn flaps.

One way to preserve the flap while unsealing is to microwave the envelope for 30 seconds. This can also save stuck envelopes sealed shut due to moisture, so you don’t have to buy new ones. Reseal the envelope with new glue or a warm iron if the glue is preserved.
Old envelopes have other uses, too. Write your shopping list on the outside and tuck coupons inside. Use envelopes as page markers or for seed storage. Throw them in the paper shredder and use the shreds as packing material or gift-bag stuffing. Or organize your tax files by keeping receipts in your envelopes.

As for those envelopes with plastic windows, these can be recycled with the rest of your paper because post-consumer paper mills can remove small contaminants such as those bits of plastic.

Lynsi BurtonLynsi Burton wrote this article for Learn as You Go, the Fall 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Lynsi is a YES! editorial intern.

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