Green Compost Bins for Organic Waste

Stand-alone homes and some apartment buildings have had these compost bins for a while. What has recently changed is an effort to separate trash at home – before it even hits the larger bins in the backyard. One such effort was initiated by the City of Vancouver where residents were handed out two 2-gallon green bins targeted at collecting a certain number of items.

These are food scraps including meats and bones, used coffee grinds, tea bags even oily paper is ok to go find its new home in the new compost bins. Items  which must remain outside of the green bins are any an all sorts of plastic, metal twist ties, diapers even the recyclable and compostable plastics (these are typically items with resin code 7 – the number in-between the three arrows for recycling) are to be kept separately and be mixed with the other commingled plastic.

The green bin initiative gas a direct economical implication – garbage trucks which pick up regular trash would run every other week as opposed to weekly. The compost collection trucks would still honor their old schedule and run once a week so no changes there. As a reminder, the compost bins/dumpsters are the spot where cut up grass and leaves go. These will also be the new digs for your household organic waste which will first go into the smaller green bucket.

As the city does not want any plastic in the new organics receptacles, the easiest way to keep trash neat is by covering up the inside of the bin with a paper bag. I made a short video on how to get one folded out of newspaper. It really takes about five minutes and no tools or prior origami experience is required. See video below:

Green bin for organics


Newer Ways to Save Paper

One major source of revenue for hotels and other hospitality businesses is conference trips and corporate events. Such occasional functions can attract thousands of participants and the environmental impact from printing pages and pages of information plus context directions and help signs can be huge. What is more, such paper is often misplaced or intentionally discarded due to bulkiness, weight etc. which leaves plenty of room for improvement and optimization.

The answer again lies in technology. While paper pulp mills would still be around to manufacture large cardboard boxes, there is an alternative approach to conference trips and business travel which could save trees and avoid the hassle of paper-making.

A relevant study shows that participants to a recent conference of close to 200, instead of the usual welcome packages, were lent out tablet computers. The devices had preconfigured network settings so accessing the internet and other convention-related resources was easy. Additionally, attendees no longer had to fill out countless paper forms which then manually needed to be entered into a booking etc. system. All forms were electronic and actual convenience was added to the evident coolness of portable touchscreen devices. The estimated amount of paper saved from that convention alone was close to ten thousand pages. To put this in perspective, this is really twenty printer packs of paper plus a great bit of ink. Most printers would go four to five thousand pages per toner when new. You can do the math – the savings are considerable. What is more, all participants’ contact information is securely stored in one central location which makes sharing an extremely positive experience. Naturally, none of the saved paper hit the recycle bins since information remained electronic. Also, no large shipping boxes had to be transported back and forth either.

Such deliberate effort towards reduce, reuse and recycle helps corporations more than they can see at first glance – it helps them build up employee morale and convince major stakeholders that effort is actually being made as opposed to just having a paper version of sustainable environment strategy.




Importance of Packing Tape when Preparing Shipments

It is well known that even the strongest and the largest shipping boxes will not hold if they are not properly sealed with packing tape. Moving boxes could be OK with just their designed closing. Traditionally shipping boxes are of the regular slotted container type of cardboard boxes. This means that the free flaps of the box closure are on top and bottom, they are of equal size and once closed, they meet in the middle of the box – this is where packing tape comes in to complete a parcel. Packing tape has unique qualities in a sense that it can be generously applied and allows for corrugated shipping containers to slide freely across conveyors and delivery truck bodies. It can also be used as an advertisement tool and carry along its length commercial messaging, phone numbers and website addresses.

Packing tape used on shipping boxes is typically brown, clear or grayish in color. Custom packing tape could be of any color and pattern. Other types of tape should not be used regardless of how popular or trustworthy they may seem. Duct tape is a perfect example and a repeat offender here. Electrical, masking, frog and office tape are all designed to serve a different purpose – they often lack the strength or resilience needed to get the job done and secure shipments protecting their contents from spills and damages. Filament tape is made with extra strength in mind – it contains small shavings of plastic which reinforce the material and is meant to handle heavier than traditional loads. In cases where tiles, metal etc. or polymer or wooden trunks have to be shipped, plastic straps would be the safest choice. They would almost never break and are made with heavy weight and rough surfaces in mind bound by metal connectors.

When applying packing tape onto the surface of a shipping box, be prepared to have enough to go around all seams and edges of a box. Also apply just enough tape and keep in mind that a box would most likely have to be open at the receiving end so do not make a customer feel like they are opening a thermoform packaging or a clamshell blister pack where power tools become needed. Over-packaging could cause frustration and damages when clients get to bigger and sharper tools in their effort to crack the packaging. Goods and items on the inside of large and small cardboard boxes could sustain damages in the process.

Here is the full listing of all styles of packing tape including less popular names such as filament and j-lar tape.

How to Ship Large Trunks and Chests

During a recent conference a company had to ship some computer equipment which was built into a kiosk with a larger display. It is used for demonstration purposes where users can play with it at the conference booth in the expo and get hands-on product experience. This is a good example of an item which is bulky, fragile, awkward to carry and plain oversized. The kiosk gets disassembled and then the various pieces are individually wrapped and secured into shipping boxes. Once all items are ready to travel, they are placed inside a shipping container which is custom built for this unusual computer kiosk and has all needed internal compartments to allow for safer transportation. The size of the shipping chest is roughly about eight feet long and about four feet in the other two dimensions.

While a shipping trunk with the above dimensions will easily fit in a pickup truck or a delivery vehicle of almost any style, it is past the limits of commercial shipping carriers. In other words, calling UPS for a pickup would not work here and other arrangements have to be made via a freight company. This raises two issues – price and time to travel. Since this is going to an industry expo, delivering past the scheduled date would be counterproductive and hardly deliver the needed public feedback. When shipping past national borders, it becomes even more complex due to customs declarations and shipping manifests etc. Shipping transcontinental would add an additional shipping cost and time to travel. Freight companies are the ones who handle such unusual shipments and have established workflows of how items travel across states and national borders.

A word of caution is needed – most similar shipping containers are made of wood or plastic. This material is very sturdy and designed to handle heavier products however it does little in terms of cushioning and protection of the items inside. Unlike the corrugated flutes inside walls of cardboard boxes, wood and plastic polymers will only take care of safety and impact from the outside – no internal suspension is provided or implied. Custom foam insulation, polystyrene shipping peanuts and industrial rated bubble wrap would help minimize the effects of the cargo while en route. Clear shipping labels and easy-to-use locking mechanisms must make it evident for customs employees what is inside the box. They have the right to look into all shipping boxes so placing a fancy lock would only make it harder for them and could cause unintended product damages for which they will not be held responsible.

Wooden shipping boxes
Heavy-duty shipping boxes

Recycled Paper and Waste Management

Used corrugated shipping boxes seem to have an incredible amount of applications and appearances in their afterlife under new shapes, styles and even colors. The latter is the most challenging – as boxes and paper age and are recycled, the amount of dirt, adhesive, ink traces and other contaminants in the recycled pulp increases and paper quality deteriorates. This can be amended in a few ways, mainly by adding bleach or other environmentally friendly bleaching agents to improve printing. Nevertheless, recycled cardboard is a popular and solid common material for the manufacturing of a number of items.

The envelope pictured below is a perfect specimen of pure recycling at its best. The A1 shape is according to ISO 216 where A4 is the typical legal size letter almost identical to the almighty 8.5×11 inches used in the US. This recycled envelope was used to ship a book purchased online and did the job in an excellent fashion. The book was small and light so this was a perfect example of a load well matched up with its shipping container – in this case the corrugated envelope.

Another famous coffee shop chain retailer also appears to be aligned right with recent environmental trends. They use napkins made of recycled paper. The unique approach here is that the napkins themselves (pictured) are calling for a more consistent and reasonable use in order to save trees and ultimately the planet. While before such slogans seemed like pure hypocrisy and a bad taste of corporate marketing, this has now almost become mainstream. Senior management of these companies have actually seen environmental damages and really have come to terms with our surroundings. What is more, manufacturing processes have been cleaned up and loose ends filled to ensure almost uninterruptable and waste-less production cycles as related to wood chips and crops used for papermaking for example. A similar approach is taken by companies in the particleboard industry who actually utilize saw dust and spruce chips to make their product and feed their own production leftovers right back into their conveyor belt lines. This to a large extent has taken some weight off local waste management companies who have to be rather ingenious in finding alternatives to expensive curbside comingled trash and recycled content collection at some reasonable cost.

Recycled Paper Envelope
Recycled Paper Envelope
Recycled paper napkins
Recycled paper napkins

How to Properly Ship Clothing and Used Items When Moving

Ship it or pack it when moving? Airlines have raised their their prices so much lately that paying overweight baggage fees at close to 10-15 dollars per kilo is just too much. Before you know it, this “slightly” heavier bag which also happens to be oversized too can cost you a good fifty-sixty dollars. Purchasing luggage in advance help to certain extent. Many airlines have a bag limitation of up to sixty linear inches per piece – all height, length and width dimensions of a bag added together should be less or equal to.

Another option is to ship in advance. Shipping items of great value, size or really awkward shape might would be unreasonable. Shipping art is also advised against unless you want to see your favorite Chinese vase in fifty pieces on the receiving end.

Shipping used items requires less attention to detail and could allow some compromise as opposed to shipping new and valuable content. First item is to reevaluate items whether they are really needed and compare prices of new stuff versus shipping charges, chances of damage and the possibility to sell some of the used equipment even at excellent bargains for other people.

When shipping used belongings the majority of people opt for used shipping boxes. While this makes sense, choose a box which is not showing signs of wear and match it up with the intended weight of what goes in it. Again, placing a 30-pound item in a box designed to handle only fifteen pounds is a sign of poor judgment regardless of the fact that the contents might fit freely in the shipping container. Most retail large shipping boxes have designation on their bottom showing designed weight, edge crush test, puncture resistance and other technical information. Going against these regulations will almost always end up unfortunate especially when shipping at larger distances.

Once a package is prepared, bubble wrap and polystyrene packaging peanuts used accordingly, be careful with the packing tape. Some newer makes and models of the latter are made so cheaply that they can ruin the whole shipment and simply come undone like shoe laces. Proper packing tape should be used, not duct, frog or electrical regardless of their looks or color. Post offices in different countries seem to have a mind of their own so when shipping internationally, make sure you write the recipient’s address on the box in addition to the stickers they put on there. Once this is done, apply clear packing tape on top to protect the extra label from water etc. damage.

How to Pack Fragile Items vs. non-Fragile Merchandise in 14 Steps

Shipping items securely starts with proper packaging. Some handy materials to have around would be a couple of large shipping boxes, polystyrene packaging peanuts, packing tape (best in a tape gun or tape dispenser), bubble wrap and some fragile or this-side-up stickers if relevant.

Packing a non-fragile item:

  • Find a box of proper qualities with enough strength, weight, puncture resistance etc. characteristics.
  • Put the box together – shipping boxes normally come flat. Build the box and secure bottom and sides with packing tape.
  • Place 3/16’ bubble wrap around item and secure with tape so that it does not slide out of its plastic home while in motion
  • Create a foundation in the box on bottom with about an inch of packaging polystyrene peanuts
  • Place item in
  • Cover with an additional layer of packing peanuts
  • Seal box with packing tape

Packing a fragile item:

This process is similar to when you ordered your laptop online and it came double boxed. In other words, the laptop itself was in the manufacturer’s corrugated cardboard box. The online retailer then placed it in another larger shipping box and delivered to your door.

All steps from above remain plus the following which are in addition:

  • The smaller cardboard box should go in a larger shipping container and allow for 3 inches of insulation material on either side between the external and the internal boxes. Get a box relevant to your sizes.
  • Place packaging peanuts on the bottom of the larger box – enough to match the 3-inch rule above.
  • Position smaller box in
  • Use void or loose fill to compensate room on the side it relevant. Larger bubble wrap is usually fit for purpose here.
  • Cover the contents of the large shipping box with more polystyrene packaging peanuts. Push gently on the peanuts until they naturally lock the smaller box in.
  • Seal the external box with packing tape and label properly
  • Place fragile stickers

This second method of box in a box is sometimes criticized for over packaging. While this is indeed true, it is also true that the smaller boxes in this shipping duo can be easily reused and cardboard boxes are typically recycled and remanufactured. This shipping style is known to deliver safe and sound to customers and should be preferred to any single box packaging solution.

Recycling Resin Codes and Shipping Boxes

The recycling codes are used to easily and clearly identify materials and separate them accordingly. The resin codes from 1 to 7 are by far the most common and popular. These are various plastics and thermoforms such as polyethylene, polypropylene terephthalate (the all known PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene etc. Category 7 is often referred to as just “other” and suggests mixed plastics, groups different from one through six and sometimes even bio-plastics or other styles of bio-degradable bottles etc. These latter should typically be thrown in the comingled waste and be kept away from the recyclables since they might contaminate the stream and cause more damage than good. A potential problem might be the fact that regular or green plastic packaging all look the same. When the amount of bio-degradables raises too much in a mixture of recyclables, it could seriously render the whole stream useless or deteriorate quality or recycled materials considerably. It would be nice if the industry could agree on some clear and distinctive features to make the bio-plastics stand out and not get mixed in.

Categories 20 through 23 are a lot more relevant to large shipping boxes due to their paper origins. 20 is normally C PAP for cardboard followed by other paper, regular paper and paperboard. In addition, codes 60 to 69 are all textiles with 60 being cotton and 61 for jute. These last two are important since when cardboard is made, wood chips are only one of the raw materials which goes into the paper pulp. Certain crops and namely cotton and jute, are also used by paper mills to make paperboard and in one way or another, find their way into cardboard shipping boxes.

Having in mind that cardboard is only a popular name for the building material of shipping boxes, one could reasonably ask why category 20 is titled C PAP – maybe cardboard paper or carton paper? It may have been a bit more truthful to call it corrugated fiberboard as it is the proper name of the paperboard sandwich which lives in the walls of large and small cardboard boxes. The wavy inside flutes are what makes a shipping box strong and are super important as the size of the box goes up combined with heavy load weight. These corrugated flutes flex and bend and are what absorbs all road pressure when a package is in motion.

Recycling code for Aluminum
Recycling code for Aluminum

Packing Tape, Polystyrene Sheets and Shipping Boxes for a Complete Shipping Solution

Yes, that’s right. These three elements are crucial to the creation of a solid shipment from a corrugated cardboard box following best packaging practices. The most important is naturally the box – if an inappropriate box is chosen, there is little which can be done to protect the items in motion and damages are almost guaranteed. Selecting proper shipping boxes is simple and generally driven by one golden rule of thumb – designed weight and merchandise specifics. These two have to be matched up. An example of a poor match would be placing an item which weighs thirty pounds into a container designed to only handle ten pounds. Regardless of how it may look, this combo would not work and has to be redone to avoid problems with ripped boxes, damaged goods, insurance claims and other headache etc.

Polystyrene sheets are an essential packaging element. They are typically made of expanded polystyrene which can rather often be seen under the brand of Styrofoam. These sheets can be cut and customized into almost any shape and house the precious cargo. Once it is secure, an item which is already in its polystyrene home can then be safely placed inside a large shipping box to continue its journey on to the final packaging destination. Polystyrene would act in accordance with the corrugated flutes inside the walls of large shipping boxes and allow for further absorption of external and internal pressure as a parcel travels. In a sense, large shipping boxes get a second set of suspension springs when they are combined with polystyrene sheets.

Packing tape provides the finishing touches together with a shipping label. Packing tape is essential when packing to ensure that a corrugated cardboard box is safe and secure. It is slick and durable and allows shipping containers to glide along conveyor belts, truck bodies and hand carts. Filament tape is another flavor which contains tiny plastic shavings inside its walls and is also appropriate to be used as packing tape when some very heavy loads are to be seal shut. Plastic straps do the best job when placed around shipping boxes to secure bulky or loads or extra weight.

Corrugated Shipping Boxes

Shipping containers are corrugated boxes and quite often corrugated mailers. The difference is that the mailers are really only designed to be shipping boxes only. Their regular corrugated cardboard counterparts can be multipurpose and can be used multiple times. Typically, a box which has been shipped once could be reused even if it is single use only. While not recommended for shipping, such a box could be effectively used in its capacity as a moving box or removal box. Many of these corrugated fiberboard moving and storage containers find themselves in a corner with a trash bag or plastic liner and become converted into a garbage can.

Cardboard aka corrugated fiberboard is what most of the shipping boxes are made of. Plastic polymers, metals even corrugated plastic are also possible alternative and depend on price vs. functionality desired or product requirements compliance as per code. Corrugated fiberboard boxes are really popular since their features and qualities are not only predictable and varied – they can be customized to order. There are many retailers or shipping suppliers who offer cardboard shipping boxes by the bale or truckload only. They are only interested in keeping prices low so selling in retail amounts would not allow them to remain competitive.

Pallet boxes (sometimes seen as Gaylord boxes) are also available and form a rather common combination in the shipping and packaging industry of shipping boxes loaded on a pallet and then secured with plastic straps or saran wrap. This trio is then loaded on to even larger shipping boxes – containers. The ultra large metal boxes then travel on transport such as delivery trucks, railway cars or ships when the loads are huge and have to go great distances at lowest cost. Gaylords are these really large shipping boxes which are placed directly on a pallet – they can be rectangular or oval. Their size is designed to match up the pallets so that they can be handled securely by a forklift.

Some retailers and department stores often use Gaylord boxes as retail ready packaging containers. This is the ultimate use of trade floor space – the large shipping boxes have their sides shortened down so that shoppers can conveniently pick and choose from the items displayed inside. Needless to say such “shelves” are extremely easy to restock and are often used to display marked down, last year’s collection or end of season blowout items. These pallet boxes are also made of corrugated fiberboard and may have two or even more layers of corrugated wavy flutes in their walls for extra safety and strength. Few of them may be treated with special waxes to improve weather resistance. In addition, fire retardation agents can be added to the cardboard pulp in the production cycle and make them while not fire-proof, at least less susceptible to sparks or minor fire. Other qualities which can be called for by retailers or resellers include edge crush test, puncture resistance and, within a reason, even barrier protection against sudden temperature drops or rises.