How to Recycle Used Cardboard Boxes and Make Your Money Back

Delivery man counting cardboard boxes
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Whether you've recently moved, or work at a warehouse with a surplus of corrugated boxes, a cardboard box may be worth more than you know. Rather than simply popping them in the compactor or the , consider selling them for reuse. This approach just might boost the revenue you generate from your scrap material, depending upon your container's sizes, volumes, and logistics costs. Reuse is also better for the environment, reducing your company's .

On the buying side of the equation, purchasers can save 30 to 70 percent compared to the cost of new boxes by going with used boxes, according to Ian Draper, President of . There are several commercial applications for used boxes, as well as for retail markets, such as moving boxes. 

The Best Boxes to Sell

Selling boxes may or may not be profitable for your business. It depends on your volume of boxes, as well as whether or not you have desirable sizes of boxes and where you are located. Marty Metro, CEO of these five tips on what types of businesses and container types present the best fit for this strategy:

Major manufacturing plants. Manufacturers of high volume items empty a lot of the same sized boxes, so implementing a reuse program can pay off quickly.

When boxes are big. Large boxes such as gaylord boxes are more valuable than small ones.

When boxes are made in the U.S. Foreign boxes often hold less value due to lesser quality.

When a business generates a high volume of the same size. Too much of a variety in size makes it harder it is to implement a box reuse program due to the amount of time, effort, and space required to sort, segregate and store boxes.

When located in a metropolitan area. Manufacturers located in or near major metropolitan cities are good candidates because the likelihood of finding a buyer in the area is high, resulting in lower repositioning costs.

Interested in Unloading Your Boxes?

Contact a , , or Sadlers (UK). You can also post your available box accumulation at a used container buy/sell websites such as or .

Reuse for Internal Uses

Some companies also reuse corrugated boxes for internal use. Frito-Lay is an example of a company that has long used corrugated cardboard containers for retail delivery, where they are collapsed for return, inspection, and reuse.

According to Frito-Lay, it has achieved a 96.8 percent shipping carton reuse rate – nearly 97 of every 100 cartons used to ship its products are brought back to be used again. On average, it reuses each shipping cartons a total of five times before recycling. Through this system, it estimates saving 5 million trees annually. 

Another example of cardboard box reuse is that of retailer REI Co-Op. It standardized cardboard box sizes for its clothing and gear to support a reusable box program between the distribution center and the store. 

Reuse opportunities are limited, however, compared to more durable containers made of metal or plastic, and are susceptible to moisture absorption. As a result, they require careful inspection before each reuse. Used cardboard boxes are, however, lighter and come at a much lower price point - arguably free in opportunistic reuse programs that take advantage of incoming containers. 

One recent breakthrough that may enhance cardboard box reuse is the system from Eco Latch. This product offers a patent-pending design which enables it to grip and seal the top and bottom flaps of any corrugated box. The Box Latch™ does not damage boxes, as would packing tape. The boxes and Box Latches™ can be used dozens of times, to promote cardboard box reuse.

The easy to use Box Latch™ is made of lightweight, yet, durable recycled plastic. Simply slide it onto the top and/or bottom flaps of the box where they meet. To remove, slide it off the same way you slid it on.