Ultimate Guide to Poly Mailers
If you’re shipping apparel or other soft goods, you’re probably looking for poly mailers to package your orders. But how do you choose between the many options out there? Which is best for your brand, your customers, and the planet? Read on for all of this and more.
- A Video Overview All About Poly Mailers
- What Are My Poly Mailer Options
- Are Recycled Options the Same?
- Life Cycle of the Three Options
- What Exactly are Poly Mailers?
- How Can Plastic Mailers Be Good for the Environment?
- Why Should My Business Start Using Poly Mailers?
- Is There Anything You Can’t Ship in a Poly Mailer?
- What Should I Look for in a Poly Mailer?
- What Should I Consider When It Comes to Sustainability?
- Should I Choose Recyclable or Biodegradable Poly Mailers?
- What Happens at the End of a Poly Mailer's Life?
- How Much Do Poly Mailers Cost?
View Our Poly Mailer Selection
Made With 100% Recycled Content
Overview All About Poly Mailers
You have a lot of choices when it comes to poly mailers. But, as consumers become more eco-conscious, brands establish more ambitious sustainability goals, and governments pass Extended Producer Responsibility regulations, you want to choose carefully, so you can be proud of how you ship. In this article, we describe different poly mailer options available on the market, highlight what to look for when you’re searching for a sustainable poly mailer, and help you select the best one for your business.
What Are My Poly Mailer Options
A lot of poly mailers bill themselves as being sustainable just because they are recyclable. To us, that is just table stakes! We, along with most other sustainability and packaging experts, believe ecommerce packaging should be designed with circularity in mind. This means 100% recycled inputs and maximum rates of recycling, ideally with poly film being recycled back into itself. This table compares the ecological benefits of different categories of poly mailers.
|Inputs||Virgin petro-based LDPE polymers||Recycled LDPE polymers||Corn-based PLA polymers and petro-based PBAT polymers|
|Recyclable?||Yes, thin film||Yes, thin film (and EcoEnclose’s take back program)||No|
|Compostable?||No||No||When composters accept it (this is rare)|
|What Happens If Landfilled?||Minimal Damage||Minimal Damage||Biodegrades and Emits Methane|
|Does it Biodegrade In Nature?||No||No||No|
|Manufactured Domestically||Sometimes||Sometimes (ours are)||Never|
|Thickness||2 - 3 mi||2 - 3 mi||2 mil|
|Tear Strip||Sometimes||Sometimes (ours have this)||Sometimes|
|Dual Seal For Second Use||Sometimes||Sometimes (ours have this)||Not on market today|
|Gussets||Sometimes||Sometimes (ours do not have this)||Not on market today|
A note on poly mailers with “biodegradability additives”: Avoid these! Considerable research must still be done to substantiate these claims, and these types of plastics can cause harm to soils and water, and some are actually designed to release methane emissions when landfilled.
Are Recycled Options The Same?
Unfortunately, greenwashing runs rampant, especially in the packaging industry. You might see different 100% recycled options and think they are all the same. This is not true and if you select any option labeled as such, you may be falling short of your sustainability mission and goals.
When looking for recycled poly mailers, seek out:
- The highest level of post-consumer waste possible. Ours currently contain 50% (the balance is post-industrial waste).
- Poly mailers that are made domestically, close to where they will be shipped for use, with manufacturing partners who have been observed and vetted, and have a commitment to sustainable operations.
- Dual seal strip, to allow for easy returns. With 30% of apparel shipments getting exchanged or returned, this is critical for the environment and your customer’s experience.
Avoid: Mailers with big bold statements (“I’m a 100% Recycled Mailer”) but are fully post-industrial waste or have unverified claims. Many of these mailers are made overseas, by manufacturers who have approached EcoEnclose before, but have been unable to provide verification of their recycled content claims.
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Made With 100% Recycled Material
And Recycled…is not the same as Recyclable
All poly mailers made with LDPE that contain no foil lining or other metallic additions are thin film recyclable, whether they are virgin or recycled. While it is very important that all of these poly mailers are properly recycled so they can be given a second life, it would be disingenuous / greenwashing to call a recyclable poly mailer sustainable, given that 100% recycled (50% post-consumer) options are available!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! For as little as 500 units, EcoEnclose can custom brand your poly mailers. When you order 25,000 or fewer units, your mailers are “post-production” printed. This means that blank poly mailers are printed using a flexographic press. This is an excellent choice for adding your logo or website to the poly mailer.
However, there are limitations. Typically post-production can only produce single color designs while edge-to-edge printing and reverse-out designs are extremely challenging. Despite those limitations, we’ve seen beautiful poly mailer print jobs that promote companies’ brands and wow customers!
If you need very large quantities of poly mailers (25,000 or more), we can offer pre-production printing services, meaning that the poly mailers are printed as they are being produced.
EcoEnclose offers small batch (post-production) and large batch (inline) custom printing services for recycled poly mailers. Learn more about Custom Printed Mailers and our entire Custom Packaging Offering.
Wholesale poly mailers are our specialty! At 25,000 or more poly mailers, your options expand significantly as we can dedicate a custom production run just for you. This means - custom sizes and features, multi-color prints, full-bleed prints, and lower pricing.
Depending on your curbside recycling program, they can either be recycled residentially or at your local grocery store that accepts plastic bags (most of them do!).
We also are the only packaging company on the market offering a poly take-back program that allows your customers to stuff their EcoEnclose poly mailers with plastic film and ship them to our warehouse for recycling. Learn more about our Take-Back Program.
Great question! Our poly mailers feature a second seal. This means your customer can open the mailer using the tear strip, and then have a second seal ready to go for returns or a second shipment. By reusing your poly mailers before they get recycled, your customers can cut their environmental impact in half.
Additional Poly Mailer Questions
If your business is ready to switch to eco-friendly poly mailers, you’re in the right place. At EcoEnclose, we live and breathe earth-friendly shipping solutions. Check out our detailed guide on poly mailers below, so you can help us help you!
What Exactly Are Poly Mailers?
Also called mailing bags or shipping bags, poly mailers are usually the most affordable way to ship soft goods like apparel, blankets, purses, and backpacks. Comprised of moisture-resistant polyethylene film, which is a kind of lightweight plastic, poly mailers are incredibly durable. As long as they’re sealed securely, these bags will protect your products en route, so they arrive in perfect condition at every customer’s doorstep.
How Can Plastic Mailers Be Good for the Environment?
If you’re wondering how more plastic can possibly be good for the planet, you’re not alone. A lot of eco-conscious business owners are wary of using poly mailers. That’s only because they haven’t heard of EcoEnclose yet, though.
Unlike other shipping suppliers, we have worked hard to make our products sustainable from every angle. Our poly mailers are:
- 100% recycled
- Reusable with dual adhesive strips
- Recyclable (check out our Take-Back Program)
- Printed with water-based ink, which releases little to no VOCs into the environment
Order a free sample here if you want to see and feel the difference between our mailers and everyone else’s.
Why Should My Business Start Using Poly Mailers?
Poly mailers are quickly becoming the most economical way to ship most physical goods. Since they’re cheaper to produce than corrugated cardboard, they can even give businesses enough wiggle room in their budget to customize their packaging.
Poly mailers are lighter and thinner than boxes, so they cost less to store, transport, and deliver. And if you get yours from EcoEnclose, you can save on returns, too. Customers who wish to return to exchange their products can simply send them back in the same mailer using the second adhesive strip to seal them.
Let’s take a look at the potential savings using a concrete example. If you want to ship a men’s size large polar fleece from a warehouse in Louisville, CO (80027) to a customer in New York, NY (10007), here’s what you can expect to spend on each type of packaging:
COST COMPARISON CHART
That price difference might seem negligible when shipping a single item, but when you send out thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of products, you can see how the savings quickly add up.
It’s worth noting an added benefit of using poly mailers for especially lightweight items. If your products are less than 13 ounces, you can use USPS First Class Mail, which starts at just $0.58 for one- to three-day shipping.
Is There Anything You Can’t Ship in a Poly Mailer?
Poly mailers are the ideal shipping solution for fabric-based goods. In some cases, they can also be used to ship boxed items that need an outer layer, like shoes, prints, and stationary.
Poly mailers are not suitable for fragile items. If the products you ship could break en route, you probably want to use actual corrugated boxes with protective packaging and void fill.
Poly mailers are also unsuitable for sending several different products in the same package. If you want to ship a t-shirt, wallet, and bottle of lotion, for example, it’s probably better to use a box. Lumpy dimensions can make the mailers hard to scan en route, causing shipping delays.
Why Should I Customize My Poly Mailers?
The shipped package is the only thing you send your customers that has a 100% open rate. It is an incredible opportunity to showcase your brand, your story and your values, and to engage your customers. If you can afford the extra cost and quantity of custom poly mailers, we strongly urge you to take this plunge! And go beyond simply putting your logo on your poly mailer - tell the world what makes you different and remind your customers why they purchased from you in the first place.
Learn more about our Custom Printed Mailers here.
Our minimum quantities for post production custom poly mailers start at as little as 500 units and our minimum quantities for enterprise level, inline printed poly mailers start at 25,000.
What Should I Look for in a Poly Mailer?
Here are some of the most important features to evaluate when comparing poly mailers:
Unlike corrugated shipping materials, there’s no “edge crush test” to measure the durability of poly mailers. Instead, you’re going to have to consider the thickness of the mailer and the way it’s sealed. For maximum protection, look for products comprised of multiple layers with a secure seal on all three sides and a strong adhesive on the top.
No matter what you’re shipping, you probably don’t want customers to have to mangle the packaging with a knife or box cutter to get to their items. With a precise tear strip, the bag can be opened with ease (it can also be reused at least once!).
The release liner protects the adhesive until you’re ready to seal the mailer. If you’re going to have to peel thousands of them, you want this step to be as easy—and static-free—as possible.
While our poly mailers don’t have gusseted bottoms, the additional reinforcement can be helpful when shipping especially bulky or heavy items, like shoe boxes or thick quilts.
Dual Peel and Seal
A dual peel and seal is a kind of double adhesive. That means the mailer has two release liners protecting two strips of adhesive. You can use the top strip for sending products out. Customers who want to make returns can then use the bottom one to seal the bag a second time before sending it back.
Some poly mailers have such a weak adhesive that you can peel it and reseal it without leaving a trace. Our adhesive is strong enough to make our bags tamper-evident. If someone attempts to unseal it en route, the recipient will be able to tell. This helps mitigate missing and damaged items.
You want your poly mailers to be large enough to fit your products with ease but not so large that they have a lot of extra room or flimsy corners. The easiest way to choose the perfect size for every item is by ordering a host of samples and then testing them one by one. To help you get started, here’s a handy size chart with some generic dimensions.
What Should I Consider When It Comes to Sustainability?
Our research-based sustainability framework allows us to pursue only the most eco-friendly solutions, which prioritize:
- Ensuring circularity
- Avoiding composting in lieu of recycling
- Lowering greenhouse gas emissions
- Manufacturing locally
We recognize that not all businesses have the same philosophy when it comes to operating in an eco-friendly way. That’s why we offer two kinds of sustainable, high-quality mailers.
Businesses that want to reduce carbon emissions can opt for our 100% recycled poly mailers, while those who want to go plastic-free can ship in our 100% recycled paper mailers. If you’re on the fence about using
Should I Choose Recycled or Biodegradable Poly Mailers?
Poly mailer manufacturers make a lot of claims regarding eco-friendly features. While they all sound great, some are considerably more sustainable than others. Here’s what you should know about the two most common claims.
Recycled Poly Mailers (Choose These!)
EcoEnclose has the only poly mailers on the market comprised of 100% recycled content, half of which is 50% post-consumer waste. While other manufacturers make claims that their products are 100% recycled, we have found that they’re almost always referring to post-industrial waste, which is comprised of scraps produced from the first run of poly mailers using virgin content.
Our mailers, on the other hand, are made with materials that have already been used and discarded. They’re also recyclable themselves. You can bring them to a local grocery store that accepts plastic bags, or you can take advantage of our Take-Back Program.
Biodegradable or Compostable Poly Mailers (Avoid These!)
Biodegradable bags might sound great in theory, but they’re actually worse for the planet than traditional poly mailers.
They’re usually still made with polyethylene, which is comprised of oil and natural gas, but then they’re treated with an additive that speeds up the degradation process. Unfortunately, the microplastics that result are not recyclable.
As such, they generally end up in landfills, where they release dangerous methane emissions as they degrade.
What Happens at the End of a Poly Mailer’s Life?
Mailers with dual adhesive strips can be used twice. After their initial shipping, recipients can use them again to either send back products or to ship personal packages to others. Once poly mailers reach their second destination, they can be recycled at facilities that accept plastic bags and films. Encourage your customers to save their mailers alongside their grocery bags and make occasional drop-offs at the facility nearest them.
How Much Do Poly Mailers Cost?
Poly mailers are like any consumer product in that you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to buy the most expensive ones on the market to ensure your products make it to their destinations safely.
The cost of each mailer depends on several factors, including size, durability, materials, reusability, and eco-friendly features. Here’s a chart with a very rough comparison of similar mailers from four different companies.
When comparing the price of poly mailers, consider what your company stands for and what kind of impression you want to give customers. Durability also matters, since items that are damaged en route will only cost you more in the long run. Put another way, it’s often well worth the extra 5 or 10 cents to get a better quality shipping solution.
|Size||12" x 15.5"||12" x 15.5"||12" x 15.5"||12" x 15.5"|
|Thickness||2.5 mil||2.5 mil||2.5 mil||2.5 mil|
|Price for 500||$130||$185||$150||$56|