Intelligent Energy

The eBay box: recyclable packaging for your reusable stuff

Posting in Energy

eBay is giving away 100,000 FSC-certified boxes in the hopes their online buyers and sellers will share in a green shipping experience. Re-sell, re-use, recycle.

When it comes to shipping, I am lazy. The line at the post office is one thing, but finding a box of suitable size, weight and durability? Forget it, too tedious, there is nothing I have that needs shipping that badly.

I'm not lazy about recycling, however, which is one of the reasons there are no cardboard boxes lying around.

Perhaps people like me are who eBay had in mind when developing their new pilot program. Starting in October, the online auction house will give away 100,000 recyclable boxes to those who request them (first come, first served).

The corrugated cardboard eBox is 100-percent recyclable, comprised entirely of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified materials and printed with water-based inks.

From eBay:

By our calculations, if every box gets reused at least five times, we could protect nearly 4,000 trees, save 2.4 million gallons of water and conserve enough energy to power 49 homes for a year.

The idea is that eBay sellers will receive their box, send it to their buyer, who will then use the box when they sell something to someone, and so forth.

This seems like a lot of "ifs" to me. After all, the recycling scheme won't live up to its potential if people don't actually reuse and recycle the box. (This is akin to my mom forgetting her reusable grocery bag in the car every time she walks into the store.)

But I like the idea, and if a special box was being sent my way, I would be more likely to sell some of my old stuff on eBay for someone else to use, which is also the point.

To encourage the reuse of the box, eBay is allowing participants, and all others who encounter the box through the sale of its contents, to track the travels of their box online. You can also track other peoples' boxes. For instance, the box that has traveled the farthest, the box that has been to the most states, and the box that has gone through the most eBay transactions.

All time better spent rinsing your jars and separating your plastics.

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure