Store packaging can be wasteful

Paper products, like the cardboard boxes used for shipping and packaging, make up a third of the municipal solid waste in the United States. Could we cut back?

Consumer Reports' Mandy Walker says people routinely send in letters complaining about small items arriving in way too much packaging.

To see for itself, Consumer Reports ordered small items from 13 companies, including Avon, Staples,, Oriental Trading Company, and Best Buy.

"We were really surprised to find so many tiny items came in boxes that were way too big," said Walker.

For example, a package from contains just one lip balm. Avon also sent just one lip balm in a box. The Oriental Trading Company sent one small vial of beads in a box as well. And Staples sent one pencil in a box that could have easily fit 200 pencils inside of it.

"We consulted a packaging expert and found that companies can save money if they buy the same size boxes for everything they ship," said Walker.

But not everything arrives over-sized. A small pack of batteries ordered from Quixtar came in a small shipping envelope.

Less packaging could make a real difference. If we cut back the use of cardboard from 100 tons to 90, it would save more than 5,300 pounds of waste, 20,000 gallons of wastewater, and more than 34,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Some companies, like Avon, Staples, and Lands End, told Consumer Reports they recycle thousands of tons of cardboard a year.



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