Packaging: What’s recyclable and what’s not

Blog Post
Whether you’re mailing packages or receiving them, we’re here to clear up what’s recyclable and what’s not in Portland.
Cardboard box, crumpled paper, Amazon padded paper envelope with an arrow pointing to recycling bin

What’s recyclable

Paper or cardboard envelopes: If the envelope is made entirely of paper or cardboard it should go in your recycling bin. Tape, labels, or a plastic address window are OK. But if the envelope is lined or coated with plastic, it goes in the trash. (Note: Amazon recently came out with a new type of padded paper envelope that has small white dots for padding, and this is allowed in your recycling bin.)

Cardboard boxes: It’s OK to leave tape and labels on boxes. You don’t have to flatten boxes, but we recommend you do to leave more room in your recycling bin.

Plastic padded mailers, Styrofoam blocks and peanuts, plastic air pockets go into trash

What’s garbage

Plastic-padded mailers: Any padded envelope that’s lined with plastic bubble wrap should go in the garbage, never in recycling. Even if it’s paper on the outside, or labeled “recyclable” or “biodegradable,” it’s still trash.

Packing peanuts: No matter what they’re made of or how they’re labeled, all packing peanuts should go in the trash, never in recycling or compost.

Plastic air packs and bubble wrap: All plastic air packs/pockets and bubble wrap should go in the garbage, even if they're labeled “recyclable," “compostable” or “biodegradable.”

Styrofoam: All Styrofoam™ should go in the trash. (Or look for drop-off recycling locations.)

Save packaging for reuse

Padded envelopes, packing peanuts and air packs can be reused to protect fragile items, like holiday decorations, framed photos or art. Plastic padded envelopes can even be used as make-shift waterproof laptop protectors.  

Cardboard boxes can be flattened and tucked away for the next time you need to mail or store something. Or offer them to neighbors for a move: Consider listing them on NextdoorBuy Nothing Group or Craigslist

Questions on what to recycle?  

See the most commonly confused items at or @recycleornot on Instagram. You can also send a photo of an item to @recycleornot on Instagram or call 503-234-3000.