Are Stickers Recyclable? (And Do They Biodegrade?)

At one point or the other, you must have used stickers or seen them at the very least. And if you’re a naturally curious person, you must have wondered if it is possible to recycle stickers. After all, you will definitely need to get a new one immediately a new season starts.

Well, we understand that you have got tons of questions. And that’s why we are here.

In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about recycling stickers. But we won’t just stop there. We’ll also discuss the impacts of stickers on the environment. And how best to dispose of your stickers.

So, are you ready? Then, dive in!

What is a Sticker?

Just before getting to recycling, you might just need some clarifications on stickers. So, yes, you see them around, but what exactly are they.

It is a little piece of plastic or paper with design, writing, or picture on a surface. Then, there’s a sticky substance like a glue that fastens it to a body on the other side.

Stickers typically have an outer layer that covers and preserves the adhesive or sticky surface. This outer layer stays until you remove it. Typically, this is when you’re ready to fasten the sticker to an object.

You can use stickers to decorate an item or to serve functional purposes. They exist in different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Of course, you must have seen them on lunchboxes, lockers, cars, walls, windows, notebooks, and many more.

Stickers are mostly used for branding, especially when a company, business, or entity requires identification with an idea, design, or word. You can also use stickers to describe your goods or services. Usually, this will be for unobvious features that a simple examination will not ordinarily reveal.

Stickers are also promotional items, used even in political campaigns and major football deals. In fact, it’s quite a big deal when it comes to football.

For instance, in 1970, in partnership with FIFA, Panini produced the first-ever Sticker Album for the World Cup. This incredible outcome sparked a craze for trade-in stickers and created a legacy for subsequent World Cup tournaments and even in businesses at large.

So, stickers have come a long way. And they continue to get even more popular due to their vast economic potential.

Can You Recycle Stickers?

Now, to the main question bothering you, can you recycle stickers? Well, the answer is no.

Stickers are materials that you can’t generally recycle. And this is due to two reasons.

First, stickers are complex materials. As such, it isn’t easy to recycle them. And this is due to the adhesives that comprise the stickers. Yes, those sticky substances that keep your sticker glued to the wall.

However, it would be best if you did not confuse this to mean you can’t recycle adhesives. The fact is that bonds are recyclable materials.

The problem with adhesives, however, is how they affect recycling machines. So, stickers aren’t generally recyclable because these glues gunk up the recycling machine if plenty of it gets generated in the process.

As a result, recycling plants usually turn down stickers as recycling products. Their concern is simply because of numerous cases of real havoc and the likely devastation it’s likely to cause. And of course, these troubles would require these companies to spend outrageous amounts on maintenance and repairs.

Secondly, stickers aren’t generally recyclable because their coatings make them resist weather conditions. These coatings are three, namely, silicon, PET as well as polypropylene plastic resins.

As you must have guessed, each of the layers has a different recycling requirement. Then, not to mention that the papers that make up these stickers have a separate recycling need.

Worse still, the yield these papers give often does not match up to the cost and effort that go into recycling them. So, most companies would usually refuse to accept stickers for recycling. After all, it’s not economical.

So, can stickers be recycled? Probably, but you will have a hard time finding any recycling company willing to give it a try.

Are Vinyl Stickers Recyclable?

First, what are vinyl stickers, and what’s so special about them? They are wall decals, and you can conveniently call them wall stickers.

You can use them to decorate your room. You can also use them for commercial purposes, such as branding, adverts, and merchandising. Then, you can fix them on smooth surfaces like glasses as well.

Vinyl surfaces may be regarded as superior because they are much stronger than regular stickers and are highly durable. So, they last for a long time. However, they are more expensive than standard stickers due to their extraordinary quality.

What’s more, climate or moisture does not easily damage them, making them the perfect fit for outdoor use. So, are can you recycle them?

No, you CANNOT recycle vinyl stickers. Not only that, they massively contribute to the tragedy of microplastics, which drastically affect waterways. They are also not compostable or biodegradable. This is because they produce plastic flakes when they break down in landfills and contaminate our marine ecosystem.

So, you can’t consider recycling with vinyl stickers.

Are Stickers Eco-Friendly?

When we say something is eco-friendly, we mean that it is not harmful to our environment. Now, in answering the question, stickers are not eco-friendly.

Here’s why; recall that we stated before that recycling sticker is a massive challenge to recycling facilities. So, often, people discard them in landfills and composts.

And here comes the central problem: stickers do not break down. Because they are fragile and flexible, these stickers escape the screens designated to capture them.

Worse, they are microplastic. And several composting companies regard them as the most horrible contaminant of the marine ecosystem. So, stickers are far from being eco-friendly.

However, recognizing this fact, most sticker companies are making eco-friendly stickers. These stickers include wood stickers and cellophane stickers, which are better alternatives to plastic stickers. In fact, in the sticker world, eco-friendly stickers are now the unique selling points that sticker companies are cashing on to show that they act responsibly towards the earth.

A case in point is Dust City Design, a US-based sticker company leading the campaign against vinyl stickers and opening a market for Wood Stickers.

So, while stickers might not be friendly now, the landscape is changing. Most companies are pushing for environmentally friendly stickers. And they are quickly becoming mainstream sticker companies for that reason.

So, while stickers are generally not eco friendly, very few are.


Do Stickers Biodegrade?

To biodegrade is to naturally decay, or return to natural form in a way that does not harm the earth. So, do stickers return to their natural state in a way that does not harm the earth?

NO, stickers generally do not biodegrade. As stated earlier, stickers come with thin plastic layers, mostly vinyl, and sometimes paper.

So, even if the stickers break down into their most natural form, the plastic films will remain, thereby defeating their biodegradability. This is especially so for vinyl stickers, which are typically more robust and made for any climate and weather conditions. Overall, their inability to biodegrade is significantly responsible for marine pollution and plastic pollution.

However, biodegradable stickers are becoming mainstream in our markets now, as several sticker producing companies add the tag ‘biodegradable’ to their sticker adverts. Therefore, it is tenable to say that stickers may be biodegradable, but they aren’t generally so.

Are Stickers Compostable?

Compostable refers to a product’s ability to break down like water, carbon dioxide, biomass, and organic compounds in tiny pieces within 90 days. And, of course, add nutrients to the soil.

Now, going by the inability of stickers to biodegrade, it is simple logic that stickers are NOT compostable. At least, the plastic films will remain.

So, while the sticker’s paper substances may biodegrade and compost, the plastic films in the stickers will not compost due to their nature.

Are Stickers Bad for the Environment?

This question will invoke a booming yes. Flowing from earlier discussions, we may conclude that stickers are nasty for our environment. But, we have data to back it up.

According to a US survey, 12% of freshwater fishes in the US contain microplastics. What’s more, for each square mile in the Great Lakes, you will find 112,000 microplastic particles and 1285 particles per square foot of any rivers’ sediment.

The fact is that stickers contribute in no small proportion to these microplastics. In turn, these microplastics are now even in domestic water in significant quantities.

Then, continuously drinking and using the polluted water exposes you to toxic chemical substances.

How to Dispose of Stickers?

Disposing of stickers means getting rid of stickers. So, how do you get rid of stickers?

The first and most popular way to get rid of stickers is to throw them in trash bags. Then, from here, they can turn them into the appropriate waste disposal and management bodies in your community. This is easy and does not require any extra effort. However, this method often ends up in a landfill where they hardly biodegrade and cause severe environmental concerns.

So, how do you dispose of stickers efficiently? Here are some ideas.

1. Decorative Artworks

You can always convert your stickers to better use through decorative artworks. And this works where you have loads of stickers.

All you need to do is get them on a Canva. And glue them together creatively and decoratively. You then get a work of art that you can always admire.

You can also decorate your scrapbooks or cards using these stickers. Trust us, with a little bit of innovation; you can create magic.

2. Burn them Properly

You can also burn stickers in an incinerator. And this might be a good idea since stickers don’t biodegrade.

However, you’ll need to ensure you don’t do this yourself. Instead, you will need to find an industrial incinerator or a company that specializes in this. This way, they can reduce greenhouse emissions.

Better, they can apply these carbon emissions to electricity generation. And it’s a win-win for everybody.

3. Get a Recycling Permit

Thirdly, you can apply for a recycling permit, which allows the waste management body to recycle these stickers alongside other plastics you may want to recycle. However, due to the difficulty in recycling stickers, this will not be a walk in the park for you.

So, consider that the waste management body might turn down such a request for a permit to recycle stickers.

Final Thoughts

More often than not, you cannot question about sticker recycling with a simple yes or no. This is because stickers exist in different forms, origins and are contain different kinds of adhesives. This makes any attempt to impose a general answer at best far-reaching.

In any case, this article attempts to balance these questions by providing standard exceptions and showing how they affect the issue at large. In the end, we don’t need to discourage the production of stickers. Instead, more biodegradable, compostable, and eco-friendly stickers should become the priority.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.