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plastic free shipping ideas  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I do quite a bit of shipping - and hope to do more soon.

Can you help me brainstorm ways of shipping things safely without plastic?

 
pollinator
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There are all kinds of paper products for shipping. Lots of different paper padding products, biodegradable peanuts, popcorn, paper type tapes like amazon uses, twine, and of course cardbord. Just shop around, its literally a Internet search away to find products and prices.
 
r ranson
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I used to be able to find a padded envelope made from recycled paper stuffed with recycled newspaper - but I can't find them anymore.  They also weighed about three times as much as the plastic ones so they cost a lot more to ship.

Most shipping doesn't allow twine or string anymore because it gets caught in the machines.  Pitty, it's such a beautiful way to wrap.

I was wondering if I wrapped a book in kraft paper, would it travel safely to the destination?  
 
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I'm interested in this as well. I don't do much mailing right now, but might in the future. So far, I just reuse the bubble mailers and boxes that I've gotten packages from other people from. I figure this keeps those packages out of the landfill longer and saves me money. But, it doesn't look very professional.

I also wonder if there's techniques to reduce the amount of tape used, while still securing the package. Maybe there's biodegradable tapes?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I searched for "biodegradable tape" and found this site https://www.ecoenclose.com/Carton-Sealing-Tape-s/40.htm

They have [paper tape that you have to wet to make sticky, as well as cellophane tape. The paper take has fiberglass strands in it for durability, but does fiberglass decompose?

Here's a picture of the cellophane tape



I'd love to hear from people have used this type of tape!

The same company also offers biodegradable padded mailers made from recycled paper. It doesn't specify how much they weigh, only that they are "lightweight and affordable" (link)

 
r ranson
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That's excellent.  They are the ones I used to be able to buy.  

I had no idea they had so much stuff.  And they ship to Canada!  Free samples too.  

You're the best!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Yay!!! I'm glad I was able to find them for you. This was literally the first result that google gave me when I searched "biodegradable tape." For once, I lucked out with my google search!
 
R. Steele
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If you're shopping a book, just wrap it in cardboard. It offers good protection, especially if you custom make the box to size.
 
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This tape is made of paper with a starch based adhesive

https://www.amazon.com/YB-Packaging-Reinforced-Sealing-Commercial/dp/B009W4ASW0/ref=
 
pollinator
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r ranson wrote:I was wondering if I wrapped a book in kraft paper, would it travel safely to the destination?  



When I was in college, I sold all my used textbooks through Amazon (for a lot more than I could get from the campus bookstore--but that was before Amazon got flooded with resellers with dirt cheap used books).  I just cut two pieces of cardboard to the dimensions of the front and back book cover, sandwiched the book between these two pieces, then wrapped the whole thing in brown kraft paper.  As far as I know they all arrived in fine condition.

As for securing things in boxes, surely wadded up old newspapers would be sufficient in most cases.  This has the added benefit of potentially informing the recipient of what is happening in another part of the world!
 
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As to shipping books, I have worked in a bindery nearly all my working life. We would ship books in boxes, and as long as there wasn't any room left for the books to shift around, they would arrive in pristine condition, unless something truly spectacular happened to the box, like dropping it from table height on a corner or edge.

I think sandwiching a book between two pieces of cardboard cut to size and wrapping with kraft paper is an excellent way to ship a single or small number of books.

-CK
 
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Great ideas in this thread!

Like R. Steele mentioned, I've used hot air popped popcorn (non greasy) in place of packing pellets with good results.

In place of bubble wrap, some places we order from have used cardboard mesh - kind of like in this video.


We think it's excellent packing material, though it is likely a bit heavier than plastic.

I wonder where you could find something like this. Maybe a local shipping place has a machine like this and met set you up with some supplies (for a fee probably).
 
Anne Miller
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While this is not plastic free, I recycle the packaging that I receive.  The bubble wrap and foam sheet work well for putting around stored canning jar (both filled and unfilled) so they don't break.  I rarely ship anything though if I did I could recycle/reuse there too.

I also reuse or save the paper sheets that come with stuff from amazon to line shelves, etc.
 
r ranson
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I received my free samples from EcoEnclose (mentioned above).  Their quality is amazing.  Much better than I expected.  
 
pollinator
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There is actually packaging tape out of paper but I never saw that in Australia. I use recycled boxes.
 
r ranson
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Angelika Maier wrote:There is actually packaging tape out of paper but I never saw that in Australia. I use recycled boxes.



I got some samples of that too.  Their stuff has fine string inside the tape to make it stronger.  This stuff has water activated glue on one side, so we have to get it wet to stick.  But it sticks really well!
 
r ranson
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A great video explaining Gum Paper Tape



For those of you in the USA, lumi looks like a great source for packing materials
 
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We do any shipping in the USPS "if it fits, it ships" boxes, no tapes to deal with and the only plastics are part of the required shipping labels which are at the post office.
 
r ranson
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Life Without Plastic now has paper tape.
 

It's more affordable than the local packing shop which makes me think the local box and paper shop is giving me their retail price when I asked them for a wholesale account.  hmmm... I can either pay a high price for the materials and get them locally, or I can pay a low price for the materials and even more for shipping.  There must be a better way.  
 
r ranson
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After a few months of checking around, I ended up buying most of my shipping goodies from Amazon.  Their price is half of what I could get elsewhere (after shipping).

It's a shame because I wanted to support local or a producer like Ecoenclose.  I think they produce a better product, but economy comes into it big time.  Even with Amazon's prices, it still totals a dollar packing material for my smallest item.  

It's also annoying that plastic-free padded envelopes weigh so much more than bubble wrap which add to the shipping cost too.

I am going to keep looking.  

I wonder if I could ship yarn in stiff card envelopes instead.  
 
r ranson
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This appears to be some sort of packaging made from agricultural waste products and mushroom 'roots'

https://shop.ecovativedesign.com/collections/packaging

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I've been referring to this thread for possible options for shipping out the rocket oven DVDs (which are being printed as I type). Thank you for such an excellent compilation, Raven and everyone!

At the moment, Paul is thinking the package will be a cardboard DVD box/mailer thing-y. We're still researching.
 
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Old cereal box cardboard, folded over and taped shut might be enough to protect DVDs. I remember netflix started out shipping DVDs in really flimsy envelopes with no apparent large-scale damage to the product.
I think butcher paper or waxed paper could also be useful in shipping, since they help repel water.
 
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Sarah Koster wrote:Old cereal box cardboard, folded over and taped shut might be enough to protect DVDs. I remember netflix started out shipping DVDs in really flimsy envelopes with no apparent large-scale damage to the product.
I think butcher paper or waxed paper could also be useful in shipping, since they help repel water.



Well, for two reasons, we won't quite be reusing paperboard or shipping like Netflix. One is that we have 250 or so to ship (and not enough time to cobble together reuse packaging), and the other is that they will be in DVD cases not just a DVD sleeve, so a more substantial shipping package - a padded envelope or a little DVD box - would be the best protection.

 
Nicole Alderman
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We ended up buying from amazon, too. It was frustrating that that was, BY FAR, the cheapest option, and that they shipped it with plastic, but the price allowed me to convince my husband to use it, instead of plastic packaging tape. But, we bought in bulk, so that thankfully saved on packaging. Here's the exact tapes we bought:

Biodegradable Cellophane Packaging Tape: We got the two-inch size, as it was more versital, and more tape for our dollar/



Fiberglass Reinforced Gummed Kraft Paper Tape: You have to get it wet for it to work, but it works well, and it's great for covering up old labels and taping the package together. It's strong, too!




He's been selling hot wheels, shipping out probably 5-10 packages per week. He scrounges for used boxes from his workplace, and uses grocery ads as filler. He's really excited about the paper tape because it's strong and it allows him to easily cover up old labels on the boxes he's reusing.

We use the celephane tape as our go-to tape for wrapping presents or anything we need tape for. I like that it's a bit stretchier than normal packaging tape. It's great for taping on mailing addresses to our packages, too.

I'm so glad Raven started this thread. I wouldn't have known to look for this stuff without her. And, I love that I don't feel so horrible about all plastic my husband was previously using to mail his stuff (he would make his own boxes from larger boxes and literally cover the whole thing in plastic packaging tape!)
 
r ranson
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When I asked the post office about shipping books, the woman suggested I wrap it in a paper grocery bag.  I tried this and it took about 45 seconds to put together (probably down to 30 if I was doing a lot - but I am used to packing stuff).  The book arrived with one corner bent and the packaging torn.  I'm not too thrilled with this method.

The best so far is the thick card envelopes.  I got a book shipped in one of those and it arrived in pristine condition.  
 
r ranson
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Here I am making decisions.  

The shipping supplies I had planned to use fell through.  I'm seeking out new ideas.

Thigs I'm learning:
  • plastic free shipping is heavier which makes it much more expensive to ship
  • the actual packaging cost is about the same
  • water damages books - plastic keeps water out
  • but some rigid mailers are also good at keeping basic water damage away


  • I have nearly five hundred books to ship out in the new year (so happy!)

     
    Nicole Alderman
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    You could ask your friends for plastic grocery bags. Use those to wrap the book in, and then wrap the book in cardboard. That way, you're using a waste product to wrap the books in, rather than buying new plastic. My husband mails Hot wheels, and used the grocery bags we'd stashed away for years under our sink.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Today I mailed Paul his own mini-me and personal dragon familiar. While they are fabric and won't be damaged in the least by jostling around in a box, it looked super unprofessional to have no packing material. And, what should I do to contain the tiny lightbulb and pie?

    When I mailed Judith's fairies, I just cut a strip of one my husband's old shirts and wrapped them in that and put them in a bubble envelope I'd received something else in. But, throwing in scraps of cloth into a box just didn't seem very professional....

    So, I took a sleeve from my husband's shirt and sewed the non-cuff side closed to make a sort of bag.



    Then I rolled that up and tighed it with a bit of wool yarn and put it in the box. But, the box still looked a bit empty. What to use for filler? Ah-ha! Old seed catalogue pages!



    Looks like Mini-Paul and his dragon will at least be able to stay busy reading about cabbages and other veggies on their trip to Montana!



    For the box, well, my husband finds all sorts of nicely-sized boxes in the recycling bin at work and brings them home! I just put paper tape over the labels on the box, and use the cellophane tape to put the addresses on. I'm happy to say that, while some petroleum products were used in the packaging (they were already in the box, and I was given a bunch of polyester thread, which is what I used to sew the "pouch"), no petroleum products were purchased to ship Paul. And, we combined the trip to the post office with donating stuff to a thrift store and getting our groceries, so not much extra gas was used, either!
     
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    I use a shipping store and they use biodegradables when ever they can, the peanuts they use are cornstarch and they don't use bubble wrap except for glass items.
    I was surprised that going with this way of shipping didn't really cost me any more than if I spent the time to get items ready myself.
     
    r ranson
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    I have a big round of shipping starting later this month.

    I'm not 100% pleased with my packaging choice, but it's better than the standard.

    Things I'm thinking about
  • getting the book safely to the destination
  • weight
  • size
  • least environmental impact


  • Yes, the first three are all about money.  It's my resource that is the most limited, even more so than time.  Bulky, heavy packaging cost considerably more money.  I do want to feel confident that the books will arrive safely.

    So I chose a bubble mailer from Ecoenclose.  This is much better than the regular bubble mailers that are plastic and paper mixed (therefore cannot be recycled, burnt, or composted) because it's all one kind of plastic.  You can recycle it anywhere you recycle plastic grocery bags!  It's also lighter and smaller than the mixed bubble mailers which brings shipping costs down tremendously.  It is a touch more expensive (especially after the government takes it's part of the pie when it gets to Canada), but the savings on shipping makes up for that.

    But, this mailer has two extra special features.  

    1. not only is it easily recyclable, but it's also partly made with recycled plastic - keeping plastic out of the waste stream.  Sweet!  (not as good as not using plastic at all, but since I've decided to use plastic, this is something I'm thinking about)
    2. The biggest and best feature of this little bag: it's easily reusable!

    It's got a second sticky strip so once you open up the mailer and take out the book, you can use it to send another parcel to a friend or loved one.  Making something easy to re-use is a big deal for me because people sometimes find it inconvenient to do the responsible thing.  Making things as convenient as possible is a fast way to get them in the habit of making environmentally responsible choices.  This way, the mailer has at least two uses before it heads to the recycling depot.  


    Now, I am still seeking non-plastic ways of shipping.  I've experimented with wrapping a book in kraft paper (as suggested by my postillion), but the corner arrived torn and bent.  I'll keep on searching for better ways, but for now, this makes a good stepping stone.  
     
    pollinator
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    This probably won't help with book shipping, but I recently ordered some sheepskin slippers from an etsy seller who sent them packed with tiny sheepskin and wool offcuts, though in a regular padded envelope.  Still, a nice touch and I'll be scattering them around the garden later for the birds--great for nestbuilding.
     
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