Sending A Zero Waste Parcel

Sending A Zero Waste Parcel

I send and receive parcels frequently. I run a jewellery business that requires packaging orders, I receive items from brands for my blog, I trade plant cuttings with other plant collectors, and throughout the year I send gifts to faraway family and friends. Chances are, you need to send parcels from time to time too and you might be wondering how best to do that without causing waste or having too much of an impact on the environment.

Sending a parcel will never be as good as being able to put it directly in the recipients hands but there are a few ways we can mitigate the impact our postal habits cause. I've learned a few tricks for packaging and purchasing that reduce any waste and avoid damaging the environment too much. Reusing packaging, switching to brown paper and paper tape, and simply asking senders to use anything other than plastic mailers and bubble wrap. Surprisingly, it works!

It requires a little forethought (like hoarding supplies and remembering to send notes with your online orders) but these small habit shifts can reduce the waste. Here are my tips for sending a zero waste parcel:

Reusing Packaging Supplies

Keep a hold of any paper, envelopes, mailers, and boxes you receive so that you can reuse them for sending your own parcels. Brown paper can be smoothed out, envelopes and mailers can be reused, bubble wrap can be used as padding, bows can be re-tied, and boxes can be refolded into shape. I keep all sorts of packaging supplies throughout the year and store them out of sight until I need them. That said, work through the stash of packaging supplies you already have, even if that means using plastic tape and wrap in the meantime.

Choose Eco-Friendly Packaging

If you’ve run out of supplies or never had any to begin with, you might need to make a few purchases when you need to send a parcel. Opt for brown paper or unbleached cardboard boxes, which you can purchase from your local post office or online (but do so in bulk; don't order a couple of mailers at a time!) Sometimes thrift stores will have a stack of donated packaging supplies, alternatively you could ask friends and family if they have any you could use. I’ve used and reused all kinds of packaging from cardboard tubes to paper bags, even scrunched up newspaper for padding.

Switch To Paper Tape

Paper tape is super strong and reliable. I buy in bulk from eBay for my shop and borrow a roll when I need to wrap personal parcels or presents. Washi tape is a nice eco-friendly alternative if you prefer something with a bit more character. Make sure the rolls you choose are plastic-free as many of them come individually wrapped and not all washi tape is free from plastic.

Sending A Zero Waste Parcel

Tips For Receiving Plastic-Free Packages

Leave a message or write an email to the online shop you’re buying from and ask them if they are able to cut down on the packaging or use environmentally-friendly options, if possible. Make suggestions such as “no plastic” or “minimal packaging” to limit the waste caused as a result of your order. Small independent businesses are more accommodating with these sorts of requests but there’s no harm in trying with the big brands. In my shop, I'll send an order without the jewellery box if you don't need it and give you a discount code when you return unwanted boxes to be reused.

Don’t rush delivery, which means avoiding the next day option unless you really truly need it to arrive quickly. Special delivery often means more trips for the delivery van and a bigger impact on the environment as a result. If you’re ordering multiple items, ask for them to be delivered together even if that means waiting a little longer. I know we're all eager to get our purchases but a little patience goes a long way.

If you end up with plastic packaging despite your efforts, there are a few places you can take it to be recycled or reused through deposit recycling schemes. In the UK, businesses taking part in these schemes are few and far between; you’ll have to check your local supermarkets, pharmacies, and organisations. I keep mine and reuse them for future packages I'll no doubt need to send.

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