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I find that we are having more and more things delivered as opposed to buying in stores. This winter a few cardboard boxes with 10kg of oranges, several books, and just this week a fridge.

I was wondering is there exists any successful example, anywhere in the world, of reusing packaging material.

In the Netherlands, where i live, there are a few examples of using food that would otherwise get thrown away. Packaging material should be much easier as it does not 'go off'. It should just take some space, and a little time and commitment, to make those boxes and bubble-wrap available to the next person who needs to transport something.

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    Sorry, this is a 'list type question' which should be avoided on SE sites for the reasons given here. Voted to close. – Jan Doggen May 17 at 7:19
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    @Jan_Doggen Generally list type question are to be avoided because: "every answer is equally valid" and "those questions are infinite", but that is not the case here. So far we'll be happy if there is a list of 1. – Ivana May 17 at 8:26
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The German Post did offer the Post Box, basically a yellow plastic box with a lid. It‘s mostly used in large organisations like big companies but at least one ecologically aware online shop offered it as a delivery option. I dont‘t know if this still is offered, but perhaps it might be a good idea to ask if I next shop online ( which I rarely do)

If you want to check: memo.de (Not affiliated) did offer PostBox delivery

  • I was thinking more along the lines of salvaging packaging material for reuse on a street or neighborhood basis, or return packaging material to the next delivery person. But this is great! – Ivana May 17 at 8:29
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It's not a formal initiative, but I find a lot of smaller suppliers here in the UK are doing this more now - I've ordered a few things recently from small, family businesses (often through a certain auction site) and several have come in re-used packaging - usually boxes that clearly contained some of their stock from their suppliers, cut down to size for the new contents.

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Not an answer, but some background:

If you work with amazon, you have run into the case where you have a tiny thing in a much larger box. I think Amazon has a small set of box sizes that stack well on pallets. It's easier (cheaper) to send a large box if it makes the pallet more stable. Also a certain minimum box is easier for automated equipment to handle.

Standardization of containers helps.

Consider U-Line. They sell thousands of sizes of boxes. This makes the pallet packing problem difficult.

Consider glass jars and bottles. This one I have a proposal for: A bottle tax that is inversely proportional the that bottle's share of the bottle market. The tax is applied at the manufacturer. Puts a big incentive on makers to standardize on a more limited number of shapes.

If Hellman is using the same jar for mayonaise as Smuckers is for jam, then the chance of a used mayo jar getting to the Smucker's plant is increased.


Transport: Overall goods flow out from centres. A container of TV's arrives from Taiwan. It gets shipped to Best Buy's distribution centre. Pallets of TV's go to individual stores. TV's go home with consumers. What does the consumer do with a TV box?

Right now China makes "one trip" seacans. Containers designed to go to the U.S. and to Europe, and not come home. It takes about $4000 worth of steel to make a seacan, but it's cheaper to not ship them back. The ones that go to port cities are easy to return. The ship is going back anyway. But seacans cost more to get from the seaport to the interior city than to cross the Pacific. So they accumulate.

So the ideal reusable packaging can be collapsed to a smaller form for shipping back. You see these for local shipping: Bread trays are one example. U-Line has a series of collapsible bin/pallets that are about 3 feet tall opened, and aobut 8 inches tall collapsed. This makes them cheaper to ship back.

Modern truck transport doesn't have very many empty trucks. There is a whole sub-industry of logistics trucking that match up empty trucks with loads going in the right direction.

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