Sourceful Blog

Introducing our new recycled mailer bag

Kris Moore · May 6th, 2022 · 9 min read

Today we’re incredibly excited to be launching our recycled mailer bag as a fully customisable product on the Sourceful platform. This means you can now customise our recycled mailers online, from choosing the perfect size to adding features that make returns more efficient. You can also get live pricing — instead of waiting for a quote — and see your mailer bag’s carbon footprint in real-time, all before proofing your design directly in your browser.

Launching our recycled mailer now also coincides with the new Plastic Packaging Tax which was introduced on April 1. The tax was created to drive demand for more recycled plastic and applies to all plastic packaging that has less than 30% recycled content. We’ve designed our recycled mailers to meet this threshold so they’re exempt from the tax. That way, businesses can be confident that by choosing our recycled mailers, they’re staying up to date and making measurable progress on sustainability.

Recycled mailers are better for your business and the planet

We’re introducing recycled mailers today because there’s a genuine need for them. Traditional poly mailers, which are made from virgin plastic, have become the go-to packaging for businesses shipping soft, non-fragile items. And for good reason. They’re waterproof, durable, flexible, easy to store and lightweight, meaning they’re cost-effective to ship. But virgin plastic is problematic because making it requires a considerable amount of resources, mostly in the form of crude oil. The oil then needs to be extracted, refined and processed, all of which create significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycled mailers, however, have all the benefits of traditional poly mailers, but are made primarily from recycled LDPE (low-density polyethylene). This is mostly plastic that consumers, businesses or facilities have used and disposed of before it’s recycled into new material. As recycled LDPE doesn’t rely on virgin plastic, it has a lower carbon footprint. Recycled LDPE still has a carbon footprint, but this is made up of the emissions from collecting, sorting and processing the plastic, which collectively uses less energy than creating virgin plastic.

This is why our recycled mailers are such a crucial and timely product. For businesses, they’re a chance to meet the soaring demand for more sustainable packaging, stay ahead of new legislation and reduce their carbon footprint. For the planet, they’re a chance to move away from virgin materials, conserve resources and reduce harmful emissions.

More transparency and more choice

Unfortunately, it’s still too common to see companies market their recycled mailers as “100% recycled” without providing any evidence. For us, this is frustrating at best and dubious at worst. But this lack of transparency was also the motivation for us to do things differently. We’re bringing more transparency than ever to the market and we’re giving companies more choices so they can meet their exact needs. To do this, we’re actually launching two recycled mailers. One is made from 95% recycled content, and the other is made from 30% recycled content. Here’s why both are important.

95% recycled content

Our 95% recycled mailer is made from 95% recycled LDPE and 5% masterbatch. The recycled LDPE is 100% recycled, and masterbatches are mixtures of additives or pigments, often made from virgin materials. Masterbatch is what gives plastic film its colour, and the vast majority of coloured recycled mailers on the market contain some masterbatch.

Most companies, however, don’t include masterbatch when calculating the recycled content of their mailer bags. It’s an easy mistake to make — after all, the film itself can be 100% recycled. What they miss is that the film isn’t the only ingredient. This is why the market is rife with claims such as “I’m a 100% recycled mailer bag” or “100% recycled”. These claims miss the bigger picture and unfortunately end up misleading consumers.

As with all of our products, transparency is paramount, even if it means we can’t claim our recycled mailer is 100% recycled. It’s important to us because we want to empower businesses to make truly informed decisions about what they’re buying. With transparent information, businesses can make these types of decisions. In turn, businesses can adopt a better, more conscious approach to sourcing and pass on transparent information to their customers.

We designed our 95% recycled mailer to be a high-quality, more sustainable alternative to mailers made only with virgin LDPE. It’s everything a poly mailer should be — just with a smaller carbon footprint. In fact, by switching from a virgin poly mailer to this recycled mailer, you can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20%*. You can also print up to four Pantone colours, and add features like a double peel & seal that help to streamline your returns process.

Because of the varied content of recycled plastic, these recycled mailers do have a textured finish and some white flecks on their surface. Most customers we talked to didn’t mind this, especially with the reduction in their carbon footprint. But for those businesses that wanted better print performance, we developed a mailer bag with 30% recycled content.

*Calculated using Sourceful’s live carbon footprint data. Learn more

30% recycled content

Our 30% recycled mailer is made from 30% recycled LDPE, 65% virgin LDPE and 5% masterbatch. It has all the same features and printing options as our other recycled mailer, but with less recycled content, it has a smoother surface and fewer white flecks. This makes it better for printing on, especially if you have detailed artwork. And whilst these mailers do contain some virgin plastic, businesses can still reduce their carbon footprint by up to 6%* by choosing this recycled mailer over a mailer made only from virgin plastic. This was the motivation behind a 30% recycled mailer: finding a balance between performance and sustainability.

*Calculated using Sourceful’s live carbon footprint data. Learn more

GRS certification allows us to validate and reassure

Another important layer to this product launch is GRS certification, which our recycled LDPE supply chain is certified to. GRS stands for the Global Recycled Standard and is an international standard for recycled materials. In practice, GRS verifies the percentage of recycled content in a material and tracks it from the source to the final product. Certified companies like Sourceful (and their suppliers) also meet specific standards across social, environmental and chemical practices.

Gaining GRS certification for the recycled LDPE in our mailer bags is crucial because, without it, it’s hard for us to be completely transparent. Unfortunately, the recycled plastics supply chain is opaque, which makes verifying materials hard. And there’s no mainstream lab test to confirm the exact percentage of recycled plastic in a product. This means that, at the moment, the best way to validate what our recycled mailers are made from are certifications like GRS. Most companies don’t seek GRS certification because of the work and time involved, and because like all certifications, it’s not a perfect system. But for us it’s essential. It ensures our claims are as accurate as possible, and that allows us to validate our mailer bags and ultimately reassure our customers.

Hopefully, you can see why recycled mailers are such an important type of packaging, and why they’re an invaluable tool for climate-conscious businesses. We hope you use them to deliver better packaging, meet customer demand and reduce your impact on the planet, all at once. Ready to create your recycled mailer? Get started