Upcycling – the second life of packaging

The notion of “upcycling” was first used by the German businessman Reiner Pilz in an interview conducted in 1994. A year later he was accused of fraud and his company went bankrupt. However, the idea not to throw away only once used products, but to find a new application for them, has spread around the world with truly viral energy. Ecologists, artists and designers have fallen in love with this higher form of recycling. The e-commerce sector quickly noticed the possibilities it offers.

The new trend has resulted in a noticeable change in the way the e-sellers perceive packaging. Disposable cardboard boxes have ceased to be disposable, and their functions go well beyond their evident task to protect the shipped goods.

Use it again, make a filler

The most obvious way to upcycle packaging materials used for the shipment of goods is your own filler production. A cardboard cutter allows you to utilise 100% of used cardboard boxes for the production of organic filler. Excellent fillers can also be made from used bubble padded envelopes.

There is no obstacle to re-using most of the prefabricated fillers. Instead of throwing away paper mats, foam fillers or air cushions, you can utilise them.

Packaging more important than content?

Not only is it possible, but it occurs quite frequently. Many manufacturers use packaging that not only helps selling their products, but also becomes a commodity themselves. It happens that the product is bought not only because you like it, but also because of its packaging (cans, Weck jars, aesthetically designed box or wooden case) which may then be used for a completely different purpose.

This can be successfully applied in the production of company boxes for courier shipments. The simplest way is to exchange an ordinary box for a custom box or custom printed box. Such a box is much more expensive than a regular one, but the price of a nice package is not significant compared to the value of the shipment. And the effect can be really worthwhile: if the box is actually functional and aesthetic, it has a good chance to serve as a storage container at your customer’s for a long time. With a little effort, you may make sure that the used packaging will not increase the waste heap, but instead it may serve as your long-lasting promotional tool.

This is just the simplest form of upcycling – you can go much further if you decide to make some suggestions to your customers on how to utilise the used packaging.

Turn it into something cool  

Not every box always reaches the recipient in such good condition that it could be reused as a package. However, there is nothing stopping you from using such packaging to play creatively with it instead of throwing it away to be recycled.

It is worth learning from the best – for example from a Zappos company campaign entitled “I’m Not a Box”. A surprising message and simple instructions together with templates printed on the inside of the box to be cut and made into various simple DIY objects.

Copying this idea is not banned, expensive, or difficult. The biggest challenge could be finding a link from the cutout topic to the activity of your company. However, it is not necessary. More important is to help customers enjoy such creative cardboard processing. If you manage, you will surely earn some recognition as a creative, ecological and fun company. To put it simply, the customer will like you. Can you ask for more?