Finding Boxes and Packing Materials

In: Packaging

27 Mar 2009

So where do you find all these packing materials and shipping containers? Lots of places.

First, some boxes are free. If you’re shipping via the U.S. Postal Service, you can get free Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes, envelopes, and tubes. Some post offices carry these free containers, or you can order in bulk (but still free) from the United States Postal Service (USPS) website at

Most post-office locations also sell various types of boxes, padded mailers, mailing tubes, and other packing materials, although their prices tend to be a little on the high side. (They must figure you’re a captive customer at that point.) You can find better prices and a much bigger selection at any major office supply superstore (Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, and so on) or at specialty box and shipping stores.

Other carriers might or might not offer their own free shipping containers. FedEx, for example, offers certain sizes of envelopes and boxes for your (free) use. It’s best to ask firstbefore you go buying an expensive new box.

Another good source of shipping supplies is eBay itselfor, more accurately, retailers who sell on the eBay service. There are several eBay Store sellers who specialize in packing supplies for other eBay sellers; go to and do a search for “shipping supplies” or “boxes.”

Many eBay sellers also do a good job recycling old boxes. That’s right, you can reuse boxes that were shipped to you, either from other eBay users or from online or direct mail retailers. (I’m a big fan of‘s boxes; they recycle quite nicely!)

You’d be amazed how many times a box can be reused. As long as the box is still structurally soundand sturdy enough for whatever you’re shippingit can be pressed back into service. Just be sure to remove or cross out any old shipping labels and confirm that the box is in good shape, with no weak spots or cracksand reinforce the box with new tape, as necessary.

Finally, don’t forget your local merchants. These stores receive a lot of merchandise daily, and all those goods are packed in something. All those shipping boxes come into the store, and end up in the trash or recycling bin.

What a retailer calls trash you might call reusable packing materials. Short of dumpster diving (which many eBay sellers are masters of), try making a deal with a local retailer to help dispose of those excess boxes and Styrofoam peanuts. You’ll get free packing supplies, and the retailer gets a little less stuff to throw away.

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