The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 15, 2007

Recycling Tyvek: Another small way to deal with plastic at work (and home)

Disclaimer: This post is NOT an endorsement of DuPont Tyvek. DuPont Tyvek is plastic. According to DuPont, it is “very fine fibers of 100 percent high-density polyethylene that are randomly distributed and nondirectional. These fibers are first flash spun, then laid as a web on a moving bed before being bonded together by heat and pressure – without the use of binders, sizers or fillers.”

All the items down the left side of the page are products in my house made from DuPont Tyvek. I mention Tyvek because many people don’t realize it’s actually plastic and may try and recycle it with their paper. And for those of us trying to reduce our plastic use, it’s important to be aware of anything that is made from plastic.

But what makes Tyvek difficult to avoid is that many Tyvek products come to us unsolicited, especially at work. We might receive Priority Mail and Federal Express deliveries in Tyvek envelopes.

CDs might come in Tyvek sleeves. At home, tags and labels are often made of Tyvek. Tags on furniture, pillows, and rugs are made of Tyvek.  And as I’ve mentioned before, runners’ race numbers are nearly always made from Tyvek.

More items to watch out for, according to DuPont’s web site: banners and signs, weather-resistant maps and guides, wrist bands, kites, games, children’s moisture and rip-resistant books, furniture and automotive protective covers, and home weatherization materials. These can all be made from Tyvek plastic.

So what can you do if you happen to acquire items made from DuPont Tyvek? Well, of course the first thing to do is reuse or Freecycle anything that can be reused. Part of Tyvek’s appeal is that it is so durable, making envelopes and sleeves reusable many times. But what if you have too many and for some reason can’t give them away? Or you have printed items like labels and tags that can’t be reused?

Since they are made from #2 plastic, they can be recycled. However, not in your curbside bin and not in any regular plastic bag recycling program. Instead, DuPont has created a Tyvek take back program.

For small quantities (less than 25), stuff them in an inside-out Tyvek envelope and mail them to:

Tyvek® Recycle
Attn. Shirley B. Wright
2400 Elliham Avenue #A
Richmond, VA 23237

The web page only mentions recycling Tyvek envelopes, as opposed to any other products made from Tyvek. So I called DuPont and was told that we can in fact send other items made from Tyvek, as long as they are free of pins, paperclips, staples, or other contaminants. I would assume that means removing the plastic window from a Tyvek CD sleeve. But why would you need to recycle a CD sleeve when you can just reuse it?

For larger quantities, such as you might collect at work, you can call 1-866-33-Tyvek and ask for a Tyvek recycling pouch:

DuPont does not cover the cost of sending them back, so you do have to pay for postage. I think that if DuPont really cared about recycling, they’d pick up the tab like HP does for returning its printer cartridges. But then, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t be worrying about what to do with all this plastic in the first place.

Once again, I’m not endorsing DuPont Tyvek. It’s plastic made from petroleum like any other. But it’s good to recognize which items are made from it and to be able to reuse and recycle those that come our way.

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1 year ago

Stumbled across this site looking what to do with these gifted Tyvec envelopes (lots of them) and then wondered what after?
This site will be a great resource – for info and resource folks.

11 years ago

Hey, I came upon this in a Google search for recycling Fedex mailers. Thanks for the information. I just e-mailed a letter to the company asking them to offer prepaid return labels. Maybe if enough people ask, they will listen.

Jeanette Wardrop
11 years ago

We offer a free recyling program for Tyvek coveralls…..We would be happy to discuss with anyone interested. They can view our website for further information.

cd mailers
13 years ago

Using recyclable mailing materials is something that I am a big fan of. I try to stay away from Tyvek because it’s such a pain to recycle and use paper and cardboard instead, but sometimes it is necessary to go the plastic route.

Cupcake Porterhouse
14 years ago

Great info! I do mail order and use tyvek and other plastics & I'm trying to work up a good recycling/return program for my customers. With lightweight items like fiber, tyvek and other plastics are useful because they're light and durable (keeping mailing costs & transport fuel use down), but it all piles up so quickly as waste if you don't have a plan. And it's great to know there's way to get rid of the excess if my recycling plan overwhelms me with excess mailers!

P.S. HP's not paying postage out of the kindness of their hearts; there's a real and lucrative market for used plastic cartridges. Anyone with a giant pile of empty inkjet cartridges might be happier donating them to one of the many charities that collect them, or selling them on ebay.

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Kamla. I don’t know about recycling those other types of envelopes. Personally, I reuse them whenever I get them. If you do find out anything, please let me know!

15 years ago

Thank you Beth, for providing the Tyvek recycle address. I hope you can help me here as well. Is there a recycle place to mail the soft plastic mailers that come from UPS, USPS, Fedex, DHL, and most mail-order companies? Most are gray or white on outside, and darker gray on inside. DHL is yellow/red on outside, red on inside. My local UPS store says to just throw them away. And then there are the paper mailers with thin bubble wrap glued to the inside. They can’t recycle as paper or as plastic bag. There’s also Scotch “Smart Mailer” – plastic with thin bubble wrap glued to the inside. They have their own website, with no recycle info. Doesn’t sound very “smart” to me.
A response is desired.
15 years ago

Thank you for this information. I have been a recycler since my first apartment back in 1972. 8 years ago, I moved to an area that does not recycle Tyvek, so I’ve been saving all my Tyvek envelopes knowing that someday I would find out where to send them to. The last time I called duPont, I got lost in the computer greeting world and didn’t try again. Love this site!

15 years ago

I recently started at a printing company, which uses Tyvek for wristbands, the kind used at festivals, water parkes, and the like. In printing, tests, roll/ink/adhesive changes or any problems all cause the excess to be thrown away. It makes me sick, and the trash men have to come twice a week. Does any one know if that waste can be recycled, since it has adhesive on it, like the envelopes? Luckily the president of the company is willing to let me explore this and become his ‘green guy’. I will also try to contact Du Pont, but since it will be on a mass scale, clearly mailing envelopes is not practical.

15 years ago

I recently started using the Tyvek Recycling program at my work, however I just found out that several of my fellow employees have stopped piling up their Tyvek envelopes when they found out that we have to pay for the postage to mail them back. It’s very frustrating to know that people are worried more about a few dollars than they are about piling this stuff into our landfills. Tsk-tsk!


15 years ago

I’m in love with these recycled paper CD sleeves:

15 years ago

Very informative post, thanks! I didn’t realize all those race numbers I was “collecting” weren’t paper. I’m not sure how else to reuse them other than notepaper, so once they’ve served that secondary purpose, at least I know who will take them. Thanks!

Radical Garbage Man
15 years ago

I wouldn’t recommend any further experiments with DIY bullet-proof vests, terrible person. However, if the fed-ex logos and such were casually displayed, it would be the most hipster-chic body armor ever constructed.

Now maybe if you took layer upon layer of Tyvek, a dress form and an iron, you could make batman-style body armor for Halloween. Just do it in a well-ventilated room or outdoors to avoid breathing in melting plastic and replicating the Joker’s chemical accident.

15 years ago

Very interesting, I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog.

Beth Terry
15 years ago

They don’t always have the word Tyvek on them. My Fedex and US Mail envelopes do, and the CD sleeve has a Tyvek watermark that you can see if you hold it a certain way.

But not all products made from Tyvek say it. You can tell if it’s Tyvek by looking carefully for the random fibers throughout. If you hold it up to the light a certain way, the light will reflect fibers that look like fine hair. That’s Tyvek.

15 years ago

here is where i recycle my ink cartridges:

they donate money for each ink cartridge you give them. at my old job we kept a huge supply of the return bags and they have prepaid postage on them. i sent you an “e-vite” for the other living green link to your email. HOW WAS MY BREAKFAST BREAD (actually it turned out more like cake!)

terrible person
15 years ago

I agree with RGM — it seems that since Tyvek is so durable (they put it on houses during construction!) that it would be cool to reuse it rather than recycle it. I wonder if, if you had enough layers of it, it would work like that other DuPont product, Kevlar? Or as a liner inside bicycle tires, to help prevent flats? Well, I guess it’s tear-resistant, rather than puncture-resistant (just experimented with an envelope and my letter opener.)

Will Tyvek always say it’s Tyvek? I have an envelope here that feels kind of like Tyvek, from a vendor who usually mails things in Tyvek envelopes, but this one doesn’t say “Tyvek”, so I’m wondering if it is.

15 years ago

Thanks! I’m a recent regular reader and wanted to thank you for all of your education posts. I loved the series on the recycling center and came away with new useful information. Just like this one!

15 years ago

I had no idea, it is amazing the things we are learning as we go, but yes one would think that with how important it is to recycle, that companies, cities, states, our government would make it easier / more accessiable to be able to recycle. Thank you so much for your comment and I am going to start tracking my plastic use, it is funny but this morning I used a plastic knife at work and in the past I would just throw it away – however today I cleaned it at put it at my desk to use over and over again. Thank you! I look forward to keeping in touch!

15 years ago

Thanks for a very informative post. I’m especially glad to know about the Tyvek take back program at Dupont. This is my first visit to your blog. It has lots of great information!

Radical Garbage Man
15 years ago

I have some very creative friends who used to run a business making “junk” into cool, useful items. Cindy’s specialty was turning things into purses and tote bags. They would dumpster dive and/or arrange with businesses to pick up certain kinds of waste and then work their magic.

If you’re feeling very, very DYI, excess Tyvek would be a very suitable material to sew a bag out of. You could use the blank side out, but I, for one, would find a FedEx logo on a messenger bag to be pretty cool in that whole hipster-ironic “I’m wearing a logo that I don’t care about” kind of way.