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Find The Most Eco-Friendly Packing Tape (in 2022)

Find The Most Eco-Friendly Packing Tape (in 2022)

Mar 2nd 2022

For many people, tape, labels, and stickers can be a bit of an afterthought when it comes to packaging.

Not so for the sustainably-minded companies we serve! We are often asked, “Is this tape recyclable [or compostable, biodegradable]?” You can’t imagine the joy we feel when we realize just how committed our community of sustainable businesses truly is.

Questions around tape (as well as stickers and product labels) can be tricky, so here, we break down what you need to know.

Shift The Question

You may be wondering, is this tape recyclable? But we recommend thinking about it this way:

Does the tape I am considering align well with the optimal end-of-life outcome for whatever it is taping up?

Most packaging tape is used on shipping boxes. More than 70% of shipping boxes are recycled; this is the preferred environmental outcome for corrugated. You want to know:

Does the tape you are considering align well with the corrugated recycling stream?

However, it is important to note that you can use any packaging tape on shipping boxes without making the boxes themselves unrecyclable. Recycling facilities are good at removing contaminants when pulping post-consumer corrugate and paper.

What Happens When a Shipping Box or Mixed Paper is Recycled?

The screening, cleaning, and de-inking process removes the components of tape that cannot be recycled with paper. This includes non-paper facestock, adhesives, fiberglass reinforcement, ink, and so forth.

Does that mean all packaging tapes are equally sustainable? No! We recommend looking for a shipping tape whose face stock matches your packaging material and whose adhesive separates as cleanly and easily as possible from your packaging substrate in the recycling process.

Recycling Paper Steps

Sustainable Packing Tape Reference Guide

Packing Tape for Corrugated Shipping Boxes

EcoEnclose offers four packing tape options, all of which are available for custom printing, to meet your unique business needs. None will prevent a shipping box from being recycled. However, for the eco-nerdiest among us, we want to know all the details to make the right decision for the planet and our business.

For a shipping box whose likely end of life scenario is to be recycled, our recommended tapes include (in order of preference):

Non-Reinforced Water-Activated Tape
Reinforced Water-Activated Tape
Non-reinforced Water-Activated TapeThis tape has a paper facestock, so the facestock itself gets recycled along with the corrugated of the shipping box. The starch-based adhesive easily dissolves and separates in the repulping process. The two downsides? (1) It is difficult to use without a dispenser, and automated dispensers can be pricey. (2) Non-reinforced means it is not strong enough for heavy, large shipping boxes. Shop Now.Reinforced Water-Activated Tape: This tape has many of the same ecological benefits as its non-reinforced counterpart, with one major drawback in terms of recyclability: it is reinforced with fiberglass for strength. Fiberglass is an added (non-renewable) contaminant to the recycling stream. This fiberglass is screened out during the recycling and remanufacturing process, and the screened-out components are landfilled. Shop Now.
Kraft Flatback Tape

Cello Tape

Kraft Flatback Tape: This tape has a paper-based facestock. However, the adhesive does not separate from the facestock or the corrugated box as easily as Water-Activated Tape during the repulping process. The facestock and the adhesive are likely separated during the remanufacturing process and then landfilled. Kraft Flatback Tape is strong and can be easily torn by hand. Due to the high-tack adhesive, this tape is not compatible with dispensers. Shop Now.Cello Tape: This tape has a cello-based facestock, a cellulose material likely made from trees. While Cello Tape on its own has some standout qualities - cello is renewable, biodegradable - it is not as sustainable an end-of-life choice as the three options listed above when used to tape up corrugated boxes. The facestock and adhesive are non-paper and would be screened out in the repulping process and then landfilled. Shop Now.

Packing Tape for Poly Mailers or Plastic Packaging

If you happen to be taping up a poly mailer or something else made with plastic, we recommend using polypropylene tape. EcoEnclose does not carry this as most companies do not need to apply tape to our 100% Recycled Poly Mailers, but it is a standard offering at office supply stores.

Packing Tape for Items Whose Ideal End of Life is Composting

If you are taping something intended for the compost bin, such as a bio-based compostable mailer, we recommend using our renewable, biodegradable Cello Tape, which is industrially compostable. It is important to note that this tape is suitable for industrial composting facilities only and not home composting.

What to do With Long Strands of Stand Alone Tape

When using tape, you often end up with a few long pieces in the process. We recommend landfilling all loose tape except non-reinforced water-activated tape, which can be recycled with mixed paper.

Custom Packing Tape

Custom Packing Tape Inspriation

All EcoEnclose Packing Tape is available for custom branding with water-based ink, so you can set your shipping boxes apart from the crowd while staying true to your eco-conscious values. Shop Custom Packing Tape.

Continued Improvement and Innovation

As with all packaging, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the sustainability of packaging tape options, including the ones offered by EcoEnclose. When it comes to our carton sealing tape, we believe the most impactful step we can take is to add recycled (ideally post-consumer) content to paper face stock tape. We also believe continued eco improvements can be made to pressure-sensitive adhesives, making them as friendly to the recycling process as possible.

Looking for other changes or improvements to our line of packing tape? Contact us with your suggestions at hello@ecoenclose.com.