We moved 7 times in the past 8 years. Every time, the moving company gave us plenty of boxes, and did not seem to bother to pick them up again afterwards. I started researching different ways to sell old cardboard boxes so they would have a second – and hopefully, third and fourth – use before being recycled.
There are lots of options out there to sell your used cardboard boxes. And to be honest, at the end of the day, I would gladly give them away for free if it means they don’t end up in a landfill.
Before we get started, lets set a few ground rules:
- It’s a numbers game. The more cardboard boxes you have, the easier it is to find someone to buy them from you. If you have one weird-sized box for sale, you will need a bit of luck to find a buyer. If you have 40 common-sized cardboard boxes you want to dispose of, you will greatly increase your chances of finding a buyer.
- Proximity matters. The closer your buyer is located, the higher the chance for a successful deal. Shipping one normal cardboard box internationally will make little sense considering the shipping charges.
- Size matters. The bigger the box, the more it will be worth.
- Reuse vs. recycling. Some recyclers will give the boxes a second life; others will recycle the cardboard boxes and transform them for other uses. You will see the biggest difference in the amount of cash you will receive for the cardboard you have to offer. FYI, if your boxes are in bad condition, you might want to go straight to the cardboard recyclers section to determine how you can sell your waste cardboard.
- B2B vs. B2C. Many service providers only deal with large (100+) quantities of used boxes. I wrote a separate post about B2B cardboard recycling services because they deserve some visibility. If you have access to recurring large quantities of cardboard boxes, you might want to check this out.
Places that buy used cardboard boxes for reuse
U-Haul Box Exchange® is an online program that allows everyone to sell, give away, or find used cardboard boxes. You will be able to sell smaller quantities of boxes to families that will be moving.
BoxCycle (not to be confused with boxycle.org) is a marketplace specifically for used cardboard boxes. They help you find and buy used shipping and moving boxes or transform unneeded boxes into green profit. What I love about them is that they understand how easy it is to simply discard of old boxes.
The platform takes away as many barriers as possible to facilitate box reuse. After listing your boxes, they will do the rest, and you will get paid once the boxes are picked up by the buyer. Easy!
They also have a wanted section that lets you quickly check if there’s someone already looking for your boxes.
Freecycle is a free nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own neighborhoods and towns. They promote the reuse of good stuff to keep it out of landfills.
Nextdoor brings communities together to greet newcomers, exchange recommendations, and read the latest local news. It’s how to become a thriving member in your own community.
Craigslist is a free website for posting and viewing local advertisements, just like the Classifieds section of a newspaper. Easy to find someone in the neighborhood who happens to look for cardboard boxes.
These alternatives allow you to post Classifieds just like on Craigslist.
eBay is an online marketplace for buyers and sellers to come together and trade almost anything. This approach could be a long shot because you will need to keep in account seller fees and shipping charges.
Facebook Marketplace allows you to buy or sell new and used items easily. Marketplace is available in the Facebook app, on desktop, and tablets. The nice thing about Facebook Marketplace that it’s free and the messaging system allows you to negotiate directly with future buyers.
Places that buy used cardboard boxes for recycling
RecyclerFinder is an online and mobile application that makes finding a recycling facility easy. After enter your zip code, how far you are willing to drive, and selecting the material you want to recycle, you will receive a list of recycle facilities that might want to pay for your waste cardboard.
Local recycling centers
This is where Google comes in handy. Search for “Recycling centers near me” and see what pops up. Some recycling centers will pay for your waste cardboard, especially if you have large quantities.
Will You Become A Cardboard Box Millionaire?
Selling your old cardboard boxes will not make you financially free.
So why do we sell our boxes?
Selling helps to create a commitment in the eyes of buyer. Buyers will be more likely to show up and keep their end of the deal. If you give your cardboard boxes away for free, there is no incentive for the buyer to commit. That we we use our time as efficiently as possible. Also, some cash is better than no cash.
However, there are a few rules of thumb that we like to apply:
- Selling your boxes for reuse will be more profitable than selling them for recycling. If the box is in good shape, try to sell it for reuse first. If that does not work, you can store the boxes or try selling them to a cardboard recycler.
- The bigger the box, the more it’s worth. Wardrobe boxes with a metal rod can fetch over $2 in the resell market. Big bulk cargo boxes (or gaylord boxes) can sell for $4 per box. This price might be higher if the dimensions or market demand is there.
- You will receive more if you sell larger quantities. Sounds logical, but not all of us are willing to quit our day jobs to start scavenging for used cardboard boxes and resell them.
To give you an idea of the pricing of old cardboard boxes (you sometimes will find the term OCC, or Old Corrugated Cardboard) is about US$75 / ton (in 2017, prices were around US$125. After that the value for OCC took a dip). You literally need a ton of cardboard to make it worth your while.
Reusing cardboard boxes is a different story. I have a added a few reference points below to give you an idea of the value of new cardboard boxes. Prices will vary depending on the order size.
I tried to figure out how much you would be able to charge for a used cardboard box and it seems there’s a 20-30% price decrease compared to a new model. It’s obvious that reselling old cardboard boxes makes a lot more sense.
Best Condition To Sell Your Cardboard Boxes
If you want to sell your used cardboard boxes for reuse, you need to make sure their structural integrity in sound.
Would you still use the box for moving your own glassware? If yes, your buyer will probably think the same.
These are a few signs to pay attention to when assessing the quality of your cardboard box:
- Cuts, holes, or tears. If severe enough, these can render your box completely useless.
- Heavy creases (especially in corners and flaps/covers) – These can compromise the strength of your box and make them less capable of holding items safely (especially heavy items)
- Stains. They could be a sign of water damage or past mould issues. This might have weakened the cardboard.
- Mould, dirt or grime. If you spot traces of mould, dirt, or grime, your box may be contaminated and unsafe to use again.
Markings on the boxes should have no impact whatsoever.
When selling your cardboard for recycling, the quality of the cardboard will be less of an issue.
Improve Your Chances To Sell
- Time. If you are not in a rush and have space to store the cardboard boxes, you will probably find someone who can use them. Post your boxes on the right platforms and they will remain online for as long as needed.
- Keywords. Make sure to add the right keywords in your post. Many platforms use rudimentary search logic to connect a search query with a post. So make sure to use the keywords that people might be searching for when looking for boxes (e.g. cardboard box, boxes for moving, boxes for storage, big cardboard container, etc.).
- Details matter. Add images, dimensions, and clear instructions on what to expect when your buyer purchases the box.
How To Store Cardboard Boxes
Humidity is cardboard’s greatest enemy. If you don’t have the space to store cardboard (or live in the right climate), then you’re most likely not creating the best conditions for storage. Avoid storing cardboard boxes in kitches, batchrooms, outdoor sheds, saunas, and other humid places.
The best places to store cardboard boxes are dry areas that don’t get a lot of humidity. Garages and attics are areas that usually work well for storage.
What about mice? Rodents love cardboard boxes because they provide shelter and protection. If the boxes are folded properly it should reduce rodent damage.
Ensure A Second Life For Your Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard can be recycled 5-7 times before it reaches their end-of-life, the final stage of recycling. After that we can only turn them into toilet paper, tissues, or napkins. After that the fibers are too small to make new products these end-of-life products will end up in a landfill.
If you cannot sell your used boxes, there are plenty of ways to ensure they will have multiple lives instead of ending up in a landfill immediately.
Father of two who hopes that by sharing the things he learned, he can leave the world behind slightly better than he found it.