The Ultimate Guide to Eco-Friendly Poly Mailers

Sustainability has never been more important. As many as 82% of shoppers want brands to embrace sustainable practices, and businesses not working on their environmental strategies risk losing revenue. For eCommerce companies, eco-friendly packaging is a crucial area where their environmental footprint can improve.

If you’re shipping apparel or other soft goods, you’re probably looking for poly mailers to package your orders. But, with so many options out there, how do you choose? And, when these types of packaging are made of plastic, is there even such a thing as eco-friendly poly mailers?

We're here to clear things up. Here’s our guide to eco-friendly poly mailers, what makes them sustainable, and how to choose the right ones for your brand.

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Made With 100% Recycled Content

Overview of Eco-Friendly Poly Mailers

You have a lot of choices when it comes to poly mailers. But, as consumers become more eco-conscious, you want to choose carefully so you can be proud of how you ship. Today’s customers are savvy, and it’s easy to fall victim to greenwashing claims. Before you boast eco-friendly packaging in your sustainability story, you want to ensure that your mailers are truly good for the planet. Luckily, we have all the answers you’re looking for.

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Keeping circularity in mind

Many poly mailers bill themselves as sustainable just because they are recyclable. To us, that is just table stakes! We and most other sustainability and packaging experts believe eCommerce packaging should be designed with circularity in mind. This means 100% recycled inputs and maximum recycling rates, ideally with poly film being recycled back into itself. This table compares the ecological benefits of different categories of poly mailers.

Virgin 100% Recycled Best printed icon Bioplastic
Inputs Virgin petro-based LDPE polymers Recycled LDPE polymers Corn-based PLA polymers and petro-based PBAT polymers
Recyclable? Right icon Yes, thin film Right icon Yes, thin film (and EcoEnclose’s take back program) Cross icon No
Compostable? Cross icon No Cross icon No Cross icon When composters accept it (this is rare)
What Happens If Landfilled? Minimal Damage Minimal Damage Cross icon Biodegrades and Emits Methane
Does it Biodegrade In Nature? Cross icon No Cross icon No Cross icon No
Carbon Impact Highest Lowest Highest
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.

Virgin Plastic
Bio Plastic

Let’s talk about eco-friendly poly mailers

After all, that’s why you’re here, right? You want the best of both worlds: inexpensive packaging options that are lightweight, durable, tamper-proof, and earth-friendly.

Poly mailers are practical because they are made of plastic. As problematic as plastic is, it’s a useful material, which is why it’s so ubiquitous. Unfortunately, it’s also harmful. It may seem counter-intuitive to claim that poly mailers can be sustainable.

You're not alone if you wonder how more plastic can benefit the planet. A lot of eco-conscious business owners are wary of using poly mailers. That’s because they haven’t heard of EcoEnclose yet.

Unlike other shipping suppliers, we have worked hard to make our products sustainable from every angle. Our environmentally friendly poly mailers are:

  • 100% recycled, made with 50% post-consumer waste
  • Reusable with dual adhesive strips
  • Recyclable
  • Printed with water-based ink, which releases little to no VOCs into the environment

Order a free sample here to see and feel the difference between our mailers and everyone else’s.

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Made With 100% Recycled Material

Are recycled options the same?

Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, greenwashing runs rampant, especially in the packaging industry. You might see different 100% recycled options and think they are identical. 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 contains 50% and the balance is post-industrial waste.
  • Domestically made mailers, close to where they will be shipped for use, with manufacturing partners who have been observed, vetted, and committed 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 verify their recycled content claims.

Learn more about post-consumer waste vs post-industrial waste here.

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Recycled is not the same as recyclable

Recyclable simply means that the packaging can be recycled. It does not mean that it has been recycled. Recyclable mailers, therefore, may be manufactured using virgin materials. Why should we use virgin materials when there’s plenty of post-consumer waste we can rescue and reuse?

All poly mailers made with LDPE that contain no foil lining or other metallic additions are recyclable, whether 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 to call a recyclable poly mailer sustainable, given that 100% recycled (50% post-consumer) options are available.

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Why reusability is critical

Our eco-friendly poly mailers feature a second seal. This means your customer can open the mailer using the tear strip and have a second seal ready for returns or a second shipment. By reusing your poly mailers before they get recycled, your customers can cut their environmental impact in half.

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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 regarding 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 plastic-free options can use our 100% recycled paper mailers. On the fence? Check out our guide to plastic versus paper mailers.

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Our recycled and recyclable mailers

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 claim that their products are 100% recycled, we have found that they almost always refer to post-industrial waste comprised of scraps produced from the first run of poly mailers using virgin content.

On the other hand, our mailers 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 take advantage of our Take-Back Program.

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Our stance on biodegradable or compostable poly mailers

Biodegradable bags might sound great in theory, but they’re worse for the planet than traditional poly mailers.

They’re usually still made with polyethylene, 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, releasing dangerous methane emissions as they degrade.

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Frequently asked questions

You're in the right place if your business is ready to switch to eco-friendly poly mailers. At EcoEnclose, we live and breathe earth-friendly shipping solutions. Before you make the switch, you may have some questions. We have the answers.

Why should my business start using sustainable 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 supplies.

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 or exchange their products can send them back in the same mailer using the second adhesive strip to seal them.

Using a concrete example, Let’s look at the potential savings. 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:


That price difference might seem negligible when shipping a single item, but you can see how the savings quickly add up when you send out thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of products.

An added benefit of using poly mailers for especially lightweight items is worth noting. 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.

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 send back products or 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 are poly mailers recycled?

Depending on your curbside recycling program, they can be recycled residentially or at your local grocery store that accepts plastic bags.

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.

What can I ship with a poly mailer?

Poly mailers are the ideal shipping solution for fabric-based goods. Sometimes, they can also ship boxed items that need an outer layer, like shoes, prints, and stationary.

These types of 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. They are also unsuitable for sending several products in the same package. For example, if you want to ship a t-shirt, wallet, and bottle of lotion, it’s probably better to use a box. Lumpy dimensions can make the mailers hard to scan en route, causing shipping delays.

What should I look for?

Here are some of the most important features to evaluate when comparing sustainable poly mailers:


Unlike corrugated shipping materials, there’s no “edge crush test” to measure the durability of poly mailers. Instead, you will 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.

Tear Strip

No matter what you’re shipping, you probably don’t want customers to mangle the packaging with a knife or box cutter to get to their items. With a precise tear strip, the bag can be easily opened.

Release Liner

The release liner protects the adhesive until you’re ready to seal the mailer. If you have to peel thousands of them, you want this step to be as easy—and static-free—as possible.


While our eco-friendly poly mailers don’t have gusseted bottoms, the additional reinforcement can be helpful when shipping bulky or heavy items, like shoe boxes or thick quilts.

Dual Peel and Seal

A dual peel and seal is a 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 again before sending it back.

Tamper Evident

Some poly mailers have such a weak adhesive that you can peel 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 mailers to be large enough to fit your products easily 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 testing them individually. To help you get started, here’s a handy size chart with some generic dimensions.


How much do eco-friendly poly mailers cost?

Poly mailers are like any consumer product; you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean, however, that you must buy the most expensive ones on the market to ensure your products make it safely to their destinations.

The cost of each mailer depends on several factors, including size, durability, materials, reusability, and eco-friendly features. Here’s a chart with a rough comparison of similar mailers from four companies.


When comparing prices, 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, getting a better quality shipping solution is often worth the extra 5 or 10 cents.

EcoEnclose Uline Staples Amazon
Company EcoEnclose Uline Staples Amazon
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
Recycled Content 100% 30% 35% 0%
Dual Seal Yes Yes No No
Quantity Discounts Yes Yes Yes No
Recyclable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Recyclable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tear Strip Yes Yes Yes No
Durable Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tamper Resistant Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price for 500 $130 $185 $150 $56