Why is cardboard so expensive?
June 6, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

It's almost time to pack up and move. The sites selling cardboard moving box kits charge an arm and a leg. Is there an online alternative -- a Monoprice of the cardboard box market, perhaps?
posted by nitsuj to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The liquor store. They are free there. Or any retail place generally.
posted by kimdog at 9:52 AM on June 6, 2009

Best answer: Uline sells tons of this kind of shipping/packing supplies to businesses and whatnot. Dunno if they're cheaper than a retail 'moving box kit,' but, yeah, probably.
posted by box at 9:55 AM on June 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Perfect, erm, box -- thanks! That's exactly what I was looking for. SUPER cheap in comparison!
posted by nitsuj at 9:58 AM on June 6, 2009

Craigslist almost always has free moving boxes, depending on where you are, from people who are done moving.
posted by spaghettification at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2009

Freecycle is also a great source for moving supplies;
posted by merocet at 10:15 AM on June 6, 2009

You can also go to a grocery store or liquor store and ask; both will have tons of boxes they'll be happy to give away. (Liquor boxes are especially good for books, because they're relatively small so can still be lifted when full of heavy objects.)
posted by ook at 10:18 AM on June 6, 2009

The last couple times I moved, I grabbed the majority of my boxes from dumpsters outside of stores. (Just look for the ones that are filled with ONLY cardboard. Minimizes the chances of any other waste.) Free is the cheapest there is.
posted by SansPoint at 11:03 AM on June 6, 2009

Protip: For packing books, group them roughly by size, stack them in manageable size piles, then wrap liberally in this stuff. Not as heavy as boxes full of books, and you can tuck the little book parcels into the gaps in your moving van.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:12 AM on June 6, 2009

Seconding ULINE - they even sell a moving kit.
posted by bensherman at 11:32 AM on June 6, 2009

I always did the dumpster dive.
posted by pointilist at 12:39 PM on June 6, 2009

I'd like to point out that once you pay the shipping charge from ULine, you can drive down to the local U-Haul moving store and get the boxes for about 5% cheaper...except the wardrobe boxes, since ULine has to ship them by motor carrier, they are 700% cheaper.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:50 PM on June 6, 2009

To address the title of your question, Why is cardboard so expensive? — It's not. But consumers have unrealistic expectations about how much it costs to manufacture and market boxes. Corrugated cardboard is composed of large quantities of fiber. This fiber costs money. It takes a great deal of energy to produce. And to produce boxes in the sizes that you want costs more money yet.

My family owns a small box manufacturing firm (I've always called us "the smallest box company in Oregon!") and I've dealt with hundreds of calls from people who are shocked (and offended!) at the the prices we quote for moving boxes. They think we're trying to rip them off. We're not. In fact, we lose money even at the prices we quote. But it takes time to set up the machines to run boxes for your bike or your television or your mattress. It takes time to actually manufacture them. And to deliver them. Etc. There's a reason that many companies charge for "shipping and handling". Packaging is expensive.

That said, when I want moving boxes, I do what pointilist suggests: I dumpster dive. Yes, even though we have box factory, I dumpster dive for boxes. Why? Because it's cheap and efficient. Craigslist and Freecycle are great sources for moving boxes, too. And, as somebody suggested, if you want new boxes, try U-Line. U-Line has cheap prices because they have a very limited selection and they buy those few sizes in huge quantities. They're the best source for new boxes of those particular sizes.

But why is cardboard so expensive? It's not. But we, as consumers, just never see the actual costs involved in packaging, so we have no understanding of them...
posted by jdroth at 2:06 PM on June 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Uhaul locations typically have "used moving boxes" for very cheap (especially the less corporate more mom-and-pops ones).
posted by wolfkult at 6:46 PM on June 6, 2009

We basically packed our entire house into McDonalds fry boxes I recovered from their boxboard recycling dumpster. Nice heavy cardboard, and since it contained a plastic bag full of frozen fries, clean. Figure out when your local McD's recycling collection is and fill up your trunk with boxes the night before.
posted by mendel at 9:09 PM on June 6, 2009

Your local Starbucks is a GREAT place to pick up boxes! Go in and ask them if they would kindly hold back their "paper order" or the "RP order" (roasting plant) boxes for you. Depending on how much business your local store does, they can get some really large orders with good-sized boxes great for moving with (I know because I used to work @ Starbucks and I've moved with these boxes in the past!).

Be sure to leave your name and phone number with the barista/shift supervisor/manager. Get their name too. When it comes time to pick up the boxes, it doesn't hurt to leave the fine folks a small token of appreciation in the ol' tip jar. I know they'd be grateful!

Good luck with your move!
posted by karizma at 9:14 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

We got ALL our moving boxes from the Free section of Craigslist--book boxes, several wardrobe boxes, mirror/art boxes. Just type in "moving boxes" in the Free section.
posted by Elsie at 1:27 AM on June 7, 2009

Check out the U-haul Box Exchange.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:45 AM on June 7, 2009

Seconding U-Haul but don't ever use those to mail with, they are single walled and the fact they advertise "4 re-uses" on the box is laughable.

I would also try a local health food store, they get fewer boxes than a regular grocery store but they are usually cleaner and sturdier, especially for all the items they get that are in glass.
posted by wcfields at 2:31 PM on June 7, 2009

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