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Zero waste shipping for a sustainable business


Whether you're starting your own sustainable business or have a business and want to learn about zero waste shipping, here are some tips to help you get started. I hope that this will help you learn from all my research. I've listed the pros and cons of each material and what I decided to go with for The Zero Waste Habit.


*Note: there is no affiliate marketing, these are resources I found during my process*

Recommendations:


SHIPPING CONTAINERS:

Cardboard Boxes

Pros:

  • 100% recyclable: If you seal it with recyclable paper tape

  • Most of them are made out of post-consumer content

Cons: Cost

  • The additional shipping costs significantly more

Decision:

Even though this was more costly, I decided to go this route because I could ship this without creating any packaging waste.


Decision:

EcoEnclose: They will ship this to you in packaging that can be recycled. You can also get a free sample.


LABELS:

Paper Labels w/o adhesive


Pros:

  • 100% Recyclable: If you source the paper wrapped up in paper packaging and label it in paper kraft tape,

Cons:

  • Time Intensive: Takes more time to stick on

Decision:

I decided to go this route although it was more time intensive. I also print my labels at a coffee shop near me. You can find your nearest one through PrintWithMe.


ADHESIVE:

Kraft Paper Tape:

Pros:

  • 100 % Recyclable: By using paper tape than plastic tape, the box is easily recyclable.

Cons:

  • Time Intensive: For each piece of tape you have to add water for the adhesive to work.



Decision:

I decided to go with the paper taper. I do not recommend getting them through EcoEnclose because it was each individually wrapped in plastic.


Other research that led to this conclusion:


SHIPPING CONTAINERS


Mailers:

Poly-Mailers:

Pros:

  • Reasonable cost: Similar to the cardboard mailer, poly-mailers are a reasonable cost for shipping.

  • Reusable: Because of the additional adhesive The customer can reuse the bag a second time (photograph below)

Cons:

  • Packaging waste: You can’t recycle the mailer or the adhesive even though it says it is. I also emailed the City of Portland just to confirm.


Cardboard:

Didn't have a cardboard mailer but this is the leftover packaging waste

Pros:

  • Reasonable cost: Reasonable shipping cost because it's light.

  • Mostly recyclable: Can be recycled in any city that has a recycling facility.

Cons:

  • Packaging waste: Each individual mailer came with a little plastic strip that was used to seal it that can not be recycled (photo below).

Decision:

I decided not to ship with mailers because it didn’t make sense that for every bag I sold I was creating non-recyclable package waste.

LABELS:

Shipping Label Stickers:


Pros:

  • Aesthetic: It makes the package look clean and beautiful. I especially love the ones in tan.

  • Convenience: They are convenient to stick on

Cons:

  • Packaging waste: Although the label may be recyclable, the glossy paper in the back is not.

Recommendation:

The waste is similar to the mailers, so I personally decided not to go this route.




ADHESIVES:

Glue:

Potato Starch Paste:

Pros:

  • Non-Toxic: This glue is made mostly out of potato starch and almond essence so it smells great. I use this to glue on the labels.

  • Recyclable + Compostable Packaging: The container and brush is aluminum and brush is made out of pig bristles.

Cons:

  • I have none at the moment. But if you try it and have thoughts, let me know!


Resource:

Tape:

Cellulose Tape:


Pros:

  • Convenient: This is a better alternative to plastic tape, since it's biodegradable and will degrade over time.

Cons:

  • Not compostable in a facility: the tape would not be accepted in your local compost facility but in your backyard compost (revise)


Dropping off Packaging:


One last note:

When you ship off your package, I recommend just dropping it off at the drop off site than waiting in line and giving it to someone who works there.

The reason is that the majority of receipts are non-recyclable and have BPA.

If you give it to someone you will receive a receipt with a tracking code.


There is also a new bill trying to pass in California called Skip the Slip for further details.

Additional Resources:

  • Ecology Packaging: I haven't personally tried this, but if someone has, let me know!

  • Uline: I also haven't tried this but I believe The Package Free Shop does.

  • Sticker Mule: Custom Packaging Tape

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I hope this was helpful for you. Let me know if there's anything that could be improved @thezerowastehabit