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Are Packing Tapes Recyclable?

Are Packing Tapes Recyclable?

Can packing tapes be recycled?

The short answer is YES, as long as the tape is made of paper, and bonus if the adhesive is made using natural materials such as cornstarch and wheat flour. Most commonly used tapes (clear tapes, duct tape, masking tape, brown packing tape, etc.) are made from polypropylene which is not recyclable. It's widely used for packing because it's extremely strong, durable, and resists breaking down, making it ideal for all general packing jobs.

In this article, we will briefly discuss which packing tapes are recyclable and how they should be recycled and disposed of properly.

What Are the Different Eco-friendly Packaging Tapes?

There are many kinds of eco-friendly packaging tape on the market. The most environmentally friendly options are the biodegradable and compostable ones. They can be used for sealing all kinds of containers such as boxes, bags, bottles, etc. Most biodegradable and compostable tapes can be easily removed from any surface. Here are the most commonly available options.

Gummed paper tape

Our elegantly alluring gummed paper tape.

Also known as water-activated tape (WAT), gummed paper tape is typically a mixture of a paper material and a water-based chemical adhesive. It’s the type of tape often used by large online retailers and carriers.

Remember old postage stamps? That’s basically how the gummed paper tape is activated. You place a roll of gummed tape into a gummed tape dispenser, which has a roll at the end that moistens the adhesive surface, giving it the ability to bond.

Alternatively, you can also moisten it with a sponge, cloth, or sprayer. Besides the environmental benefits, people like using gummed paper tape because it tears cleanly and does not leave sticky residue on the box or package.1

Non-Reinforced and Reinforced Gummed Tapes

The most obvious option for biodegradable tape is gummed tape, particularly the non-reinforced type, which is entirely made out of paper. And because it contains basically no other material other than paper and the water-soluble plant-based adhesive that goes along with it, it can be left to be recycled with the box. The process of manufacturing gummed tape does not even involve adding any other solvents, which adds to its biodegradability.

While regular gummed tape is the go-to tape for shipping and packaging lighter objects, there is also a more durable type called reinforced gummed tape, which has embedded fiberglass strands. Because it’s stronger and harder to tear, it is usually used to pack heavier loads. The paper on both reinforced and non-reinforced gummed tape is recyclable.

Kraft Paper Tapes

Kraft tape is the most commonly available paper material used in gummed tapes. It is often used to seal and ship cardboard boxes. Paper tapes have excellent adhesion to corrugated cardboard, and it sticks excellently even when the box is dirty. It can be used in both extremely cold and hot environments, which makes it an excellent choice for shipping. Some Kraft tape comes in reinforced forms. Reinforced gummed tapes are best for sealing heavier packages.1

Kraft paper is typically sold in the natural brown color, but it is also available in the white version. You can choose from many width and strength options. Picking paper material, whether white or brown paper, comes down to preference. 

What you might want to think about is whether to get custom-made ones or buy readily printed ones. Customized tapes are best for those with high sales volume. But, if you want designs that align with your brand, but your sales can't meet high MOQs yet, pre-printed ones may be more cost-efficient.

Self-adhesive paper tape

Self-adhesive paper tape is another recyclable tape option. Not to be confused with masking tape, this material has a strong resistance to moisture and humidity, and it also requires minimal pressure when applied.

These tapes are made of two materials – the backing material and the adhesive layer. The backing material provides strength and durability to the tape, while the adhesive holds everything together. Self-adhesive paper tapes are widely used in the craft and framing industry and are often referred to as ‘framing tape’ or ‘framers tape'.

It’s the perfect tape for hanging, repairing, attaching, and reinforcing any kind of art. It's because it's thicker and stronger than regular tape. It helps create a clean finish and professional look when used for matting and mounting artwork.

Most self-adhesive paper tapes sold are 100% recyclable. It can easily be recycled by dropping it off in curbside recycling like any other paper waste. During the recycling process, the adhesive is removed.

Cellulose tape

Cellulose tape is slowly becoming the poster child for biodegradable tape options. It’s already available in some markets. Its growing popularity is due to its unique combination of durability and renewability.

Cellulose, being one of the main chemical components of wood, may look like petroleum-based plastic on the surface. But because this tape is entirely made from trees, it makes for a great choice for packing heavy materials. Especially when paper tape won’t do the job. On top of that, cellulose tape takes longer to break down in landfills than paper tape.

It’s more than just making the eco-friendly choice

Besides doing your research and choosing the packing tapes that are suitable for you, there are some other important factors you also need to consider. You need to understand that each kind of packing tape has its own unique composition and thus, would break down differently. Just because something is recyclable doesn’t mean it can go into the same recycling bin.

Plastic bags, including mailer bags (classified as Flexible Packaging), should not be put in the same recycle bin as hard plastics; such as milk cartons or other plastic containers. They would often get tangled up in the sorting machine, causing the staff to have to get in and detangle it.1

For gummed tapes specifically, while the regular gummed tapes are biodegradable, the reinforced ones are not because of the woven fiberglass in those tapes.

What we can do as brand owners is to educate ourselves on how our packaging should be recycled, and inform our customers to make sure the packaging waste, like, tapes are handled properly. Opting for more sustainable packaging options is a huge step towards protecting our planet. It would be even more beneficial if we go the final mile and make sure they are recycled/disposed of properly.

How did we decide on making our packing tape?

When we were designing our packaging tapes, we decided to use non-reinforced material because of how the tape is structured. The reinforced tapes have fiberglass, which means it’s not 100% biodegradable. It doesn't mean it's not a good option, just that using non-reinforced tapes would allow people more flexible options when recycling or discarding the packaging. 

We understood that going with the non-reinforced option means we'll be limited by the weight capacity that it can seal. While the reinforced version is a better option for heavier packages.

The Wrap-Up

With online shopping becoming the norm, as shop owners, it is important to consider the impact of packaging waste when shipping your products to customers. It may seem like a small thing, but they sure add up! USPS sent out millions of packages domestically last year alone. Imagine the number of packaging wraps, shipping boxes, and mailers that ended up in the waste.

We can all do our part to pack responsibly. Share recycling and disposal tips with our customers to make sure the packaging waste ends up in the right facility.

It’s great knowing that more people are choosing to go with eco-friendly options, and hopefully, technology can soon create greener alternatives to the common packing tapes that are made using chemicals.


Is recycling cardboard boxes with tape possible?

Yes! There are many ways to recycle cardboard boxes, including recycling them with other paper waste and taking them to local recycling centers. However, you should never throw away packing tape or any kind of adhesive material without first removing it. Also, some materials are recyclable only in certain parts of the country. Check with your local waste management agency to see what options you have available.2

Where can packing tapes be recycled?

As we've tackled above, some packaging tapes are made of plastic and paper, both of which can be recycled. There are many ways to recycle packing tape. Most cities have drop-off locations where you can take these wastes for free.

How Do You Know If It's Recyclable or Biodegradable?

Biodegradable tapes are made from plant-based materials, such as corn starch or potato starch. These products break down naturally into carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients within 6 months. Recyclable tapes are made from non-biodegradable plastics like polyethylene plastic that can be recycled easily.

How can you reduce tape used for shipping?

Ideally, the recommended overhang for each side is at least 3.14” (8 cm) to the length of the box. That is when you’re sealing the top flap. You can double the length if you’re sealing both the box's top and bottom parts. This will help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

Wrapping things up!

In a world where business owners and consumers are increasingly conscious of the environment, using sustainable supplies has become a common practice.

We want people to feel guilt-free from tearing off and disposing of their packages because they know it is made up of recyclable or biodegradable materials, which do not cause a negative impact on the environment.

Let's wrap things up with our eco-friendly packing tapes and make a positive Impack!


1 comment on Are Packing Tapes Recyclable?
  • Jeffrey Yoo Warren
    Jeffrey Yoo Warren

    Hello, i appreciate this a lot! I have been trying to find if there is a laminate layer within many gummed paper tapes — this site seems to say there’s a polypropylene layer between 2 sheets of paper in the tape?

    I know lamination is a pretty common thing and would guess packages by big companies like Amazon use laminated gummed tape… so i would guess this is reasonably low concern. But I did find this link about how screening out plastics from laminates (mostly food-safe coatings, i think?) is part of the recycling process:

    I wish I could find some gummed tapes that did NOT have laminate layers.

    Thanks for this site!

    April 26, 2022
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