Eco-friendly shipping never smelled so good.

It is kind of an odd way to start a review, especially of something so typically mundane as an envelope to ship stuff in, but after the Sendle compostable mailer arrived1Sendle was going to send me some to review, but I ended up with a set of my own outside of that arrangement., I couldn’t help but fixate on the wonderfully sweet and savory odor.

If you haven’t read my original Sendle review, go take a look at that, then take a look at some of my updated thoughts in that review, then come back here.

Something that I’ve found myself being more fixated on than I thought reasonable is the process of packing and shipping goods to end customers. It sounds quite mundane, and for many it is. For me, it’s thrilling. I love finding ways to make the pack-and-ship process fast and efficient, from staging supplies in certain spots on my workbench, having everything positioned a certain way, and figuring out how to best access the printed labels that have just come out of the printer.

During one of my busier weeks, I cranked out dozens of orders in a matter of minutes, because I had everything lined up a certain way and there was minimal stoppage between steps.

While that level of efficiency doesn’t really have anything to do with this article, the base perspective does. I obsess over shipping materials.

The Sendle Compostable Mailer

One thing I find myself thinking about a lot is how can I ensure everything I’m using is 100% recyclable, and if not, how can I make it that way? Some materials are easier to recycle than others, especially plastics in different forms. Various U.S. states have different recycling programs and take different materials (1, 2, 3). It’s even more different in other countries.

If you order products from retailers like Amazon, especially Amazon, you’ll have likely been exposed to a variety of shipping materials. The boxes are the most obvious, and they’re recyclable (cardboard). What’s less clear are the envelopes. So far, I’ve seen three kinds.

The orange padded envelopes are recyclable if you separate the paper and its plastic cushioning.

The white-blue padded envelopes are recyclable as plastic bags. If you have a plastic bag drop-off area, that’s where it needs to go, otherwise, it would likely have to be tossed in the trash2Some areas allow plastic bags in recycling, but it’s not consistent..

The third option I’ve seen are paper/kraft envelopes with paper-like padded material inside. Those, so far as I can tell are entirely recyclable. If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy to correct. I haven’t received more than but a few of these, and it has been a while, so my memory could be incorrect.

So what about yourself, the e-commerce business owner? How can you ensure you’re setting your customers up for success when it comes to keeping your packaging out of a landfill?

An easy way to ensure the materials in use don’t end up in a landfill is to use materials that don’t need to go through a recycling center at all.

This is where Sendle’s compostable mailer comes in. These 9×13″ mailers look like poly mailers, contain stuff like poly mailers, but won’t end up in the dump for centuries.

How Sendle gets away with this is through the use of corn.

A field of corn, what the Sendle compostable mailer is ultimately made out of.
Sendle compostable mailers in their raw state, still growing.

More specifically, the flexible goodie pouches are made from corn starch, PLA (polylactic acid, a thing made from corn starch), and PBAT (polybutylene adipate terephthalate). These all sound fancy and science-y, but it goes one step further than that.

The Sendle food-based parcel ferry is AS5810-certified, meaning it was tested and is proven to be something one can compost in their own home. Within six months, that envelope is as good as worm food, as Sendle quite cutely calls it.

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Did I mention it smells amazing? because its mostly corn product, when it arrived, it immediately had a wonderfully sweet and warm smell of caramel. I wanted to eat it.

So this is all fun and stuff, but how does it hold up? If you put the max storage time aside (Sendle recommends 9 months between order and usage) these hold up very well. Polymers and monomers can be quite capable in the right scenarios. PLA is used for 3D printing, too, so we’re already off to a great start.

I had no struggle ensuring whatever I shoved into my biodegradable pouches actually stayed there. For science, I paired the Sendle compostable mailer with its same-sized typical gray poly mailer. We’re talking the basic, 2mil kind. Nothing fancy.

From a weigh perspective, the corny carrier immediately feels not just heavier, but denser. Its floppy like we’d expect it to be, but has more heft.

The Sendle compostable mailer, adorned with all its compostable branding flavor text. (source: Sendle)

This translates on the scale, well, too. A 9×13″ 2mil grey poly mailer is about 9 grams. The Sendle compostable mailer (also 9×13″) is about 20 grams. The 11 gram weight difference won’t break the bank or have an actual impact on your shipping costs. This extra heft and density is apparent when I tried to stretch and tear.

My 2mil poly mailers were advertised as being tear-proof, and they’re right, but that doesn’t stop them from having a lot of give should the material be presented with a corner or sharp angle. The Sendle compostable mailer had little give to offer, at all. I don’t have a way to measure the thickness, but I could easily see these being closer to 4 or 5 mil.

The Sendle compostable mailer is also very obviously branded with the Sendle logo. The idea is that you pair the worm bag with Sendle’s shipping service that offsets the carbon emissions from your shipment through various projects.

All that’s left is price. If you’re the kind of person who is strictly price-conscious, I don’t know how you made it this far into this article, to be honest. Bio-degradable, eco-friendly… these words aren’t in your lexicon.

The Sendle compostable mailer comes in packs of 100 (in its owner compostable mailer, no less) for about $40, or $0.40/each. Typical poly mailers of the same size can run between $12 and $15 for the same quantity.

grilled corncobs
Grilled Sendle compostable mailers in their raw form.

But that’s not the point, here. Comparing Sendle’s offering to others on the market, pricing gets a bit more competitive. Noissue sells packs of 100 of their 10.2″ x 15″ size for $45 and Better Packaging‘s 10.2″ x 15.2″ offering clocks in at $40 as well. Granted, these two options are slightly larger, though it’s not clear if they’re measuring length with the flap (Sendle states their measurements are sans flap).

Conclusion

Is it worth it? I suppose that’ll depend on what’s most important to you. If you’re sending out hundreds or thousands of shipments a month, I’d say it might make the most sense to stick to using cardboard. If your items are on the smaller size–especially clothing–, and the $.40/each price tag for a mailer isn’t too steep, and you like the idea of making sure just a bit more material doesn’t potentially end up in the dumpster, this could be a great option. Pair it with Sendle’s shipping service and you have a compostable, carbon-neutral logistics winner.