Friday, September 17, 2004

Recycled Packaging

I make use of a lot of recycled packaging for shipping customer orders. I save all incoming packaging and collect more from friends and my wife's workplace.

While small items can be shipped in padded envelopes, which I have to purchase, larger items and big orders are shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes. When I get these, I calculate the cubic capacity of the box and write that on the side, then break the box down so that it can be stored flat. Then when I have an order to pack I find a suitable sized box and re-assemble it. I also use flat pieces of cardboard to reinforce the tops and bottoms of some boxes.

The packing material that I use comes in many forms. Polystyrene pellets are quite common, though they are not the most environmentally sound product because they cannot be recycled. I also use larger pieces of expanded polystyrene, the sort of stuff that electronic equipment is often packed in. I cut it down into more manageable sizes with the bandsaw, then use it to fill larger voids in your parcels. Bubblewrap is an old favourite which I normally save for wrapping more delicate items. More recently I have started to see inflatable packaging being used. This comes in the form of polythene bags full of air, which seem to be a very environment friendly solution since there is very little material used to achieve a very large amount of padding. If they aren't going to be reused they can be deflated and recycled along with any other LDPE .

One strange material I got recently was corrugated cardboard which had be cut into v-shaped pieces. It made for a quite heavy packaging, but since most Canada Post parcels have a minimum density applied to them (low density parcels are paid for by volume, not weight) , this is probably not a big problem to me.

So why do I go to all the trouble of storing and re-using recycled packaging? Well, it saves cash for one thing. For the quantities of packaging that I use, it can be expensive. But I would much rather re-use something than throw it away. I like to do my bit for the environment, and if I can use something one more time before it goes to the landfill or recycling facility then so much the better. So as long as it is clean and reasonably presentable, then I will happily re-use it.