Racking your brains about the most sustainable and affordable way to send items in the post? We can sum it all up in just one word.
Reusing existing packaging is usually free or low cost, reduces waste as well as the need for brand new materials (except for some packing tape, etc).
Affordable and Sustainable Packaging Ideas
Reused Vs Recycled Packaging
Recycled packaging is taking waste materials like paper, cardboard and plastics and creating brand new packaging. Sometimes recycled packaging is a blend of old and new materials.
Reused packaging, on the other hand, is about squeezing a few extra uses out of a perfectly good cardboard box or mailing bag. It may also involve some repurposing, using common household items to help protect items in the post.
Why Reused Packaging is Better for the Planet
We are always told to recycle, recycle, recycle. And this is great! Except there is a step we should try to do before that, which is to reuse the item in its current form.
When it comes to old packaging, whether it's an old cardboard box, sleeve, or a plastic mailing bag, we can still use it again for the same purpose.
This reduces the environmental cost of sending parcels because even recycled packaging requires a lot of energy to make.
Tips For Reusing Old Packaging
Here are a few pointers to consider for reusing old packaging.
Think about the size of the item you're packing.
Just like when you use wrapping paper, it is important to judge just how much space you need. There's no point in using a huge box that has to be filled with packing paper or peanuts. Instead, try to choose a box that is the right size.
If you're inundated with big boxes that are the wrong size, you can try cutting them down.
Use parcel tape sparingly.
It is tempting to ensure that every seam and crevice on old packaging is secure. If you have a particularly heavy object, then using a few extra strips of tape isn't the end of the world. But you don't need to go mad with it and end up with more tape than parcel.
Use a sticker, stamp or badge to show it's repurposed
If you're sending an item to a friend, they might not really care if you're sending them an item in reused packaging.
But if you are sending out a parcel as a small business owner or to someone that DOES care, you may want to use a sticker or stamp to show that you have repurposed the packaging, to excuse any flaws it might have.
Remove old addresses
Whether you're reusing your own parcels or someone elses, it is important to remove or at least cover any previous address labels. This is partly so the item doesn't get mistakenly sent to the wrong place, but also to protect people's privacy.
Types of Old Packaging and Household Items You Can Reuse
Here are a few ideas of the kinds of items you can repurpose to make packaging. Note: you might want to combine these to protect more fragile items.
Old shopping bags
Give that bag for life another life! If you have clothes to send in the post, turning an old shopping bag inside out can as good as sending them in a brand new mailing bag.
If the bag is more see-through, you may need to wrap the item in some brown paper or other packing materials. Totally see-through packaging is not allowed in UK post, though so bare that in mind.
Old Mailing Bags
Wait a second before you rip open that parcel in haste! Reusing old jiffy bags or other plastic mailing bags is a really easy way to keep your packaging sustainable and affordable. Just tape it back up neatly and you're good to go.
Thin, weak paper bags are a no-go when it comes to reused packaging. But the thicker, sturdier kind can be appropriate. You may want to either tuck the handles inside or remove them entirely.
The easiest way to send shoes or boots safely in the post is to keep them in their original box. The next best thing to reuse another shoe box of a similar size.
These plastic cases can seem a bit pointless when you no longer have use for CDs. But for those small, delicate items, like jewellery, you can wrap them to stop them rattling around inside, then pop them into a mailing bag for extra peace of mind.
Newspapers and Magazines
Need wrapping paper? Reuse your old newspapers! If you're sending a birthday gift to a friend, you could even decorate or doodle on the newspapers to personalise it.
Alternatively, you can shred newspapers and magazines to help pad and fill any spaces in a parcel box.
Scarves or Fabric Scraps
Try some furoshiki with your old scaves or scraps of fabric. Traditionally, furoshiki is a special kind of fabric that is used as a gift wrap. You can upcycle old scarves, clothing or fabrics to make your own.
Out of date or surplus maps can also be a unique way of keeping items all wrapped up inside a parcel.
Where to Find Old Boxes or Packaging To Reuse
If you're an individual, it is definitely worth saving up the boxes and packaging that you get from any online orders. You can also ask family and friends to save their packaging for you.
You could also ask at supermarkets. Some supermarkets will have a policy to either destroy or recycle packaging on-site, to save being over-run by packaging. There is still a way to intervene, though. Pop in and ask when the deliveries come in. This is the best time to go in and rescue the spare packaging.
Facebook Groups and Marketplace are also good options for sourcing packaging. There are a series of Pass It On Packaging Groups across the UK to join. The name is fairly self-explanatory, these groups are filled with likeminded people who want to save their old packaging from landfill.
As a business, you may need packaging on a much larger scale. It is worth reaching out to any local businesses in your area that may have spare packaging. These could be all kinds of different firms. Instead of destroying or recycling their packaging, you could offer to take it off their hands.
If you have a strong community of customers around you, you could also put call outs on social media.
Again you may also want to get active in Facebook groups to offer to reuse people's old packaging.
Now you've armed with this information, go and save some perfectly good packaging from landfill!