How do I bundle cardboard boxes most efficiently?
February 27, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe

What's the trick to flattening cardboard boxes of varying sizes/thicknesses and bundling them together with twine? I handle the recycling for my building, and I can't figure out how to manage the boxes most efficiently.

It can be anywhere from 5-25 boxes at a time, ranging from microwave-size to bedframe-size. I don't have a lot of space to break them down, so I can't ever seem to get them of uniform size/shape/flatness because the corrugation doesn't match up. I also can't seem to get the twine tight enough, so the boxes constantly feel like they're about to slip out of the bundle (and often do).

FWIW, I'm currently doing it "present-wrapping style": wrapping the twine horizontally around the boxes and tying half a knot, then awkwardly trying to slip the twine under/over the boxes and wrapping vertically, then tying a full knot. If I do this twice-over or thrice-over, the bundle is a little more compact/stable but takes much longer. Any suggestions on how to do this better would be much appreciated!
posted by unknowncommand to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Forget the twine. Keep one larger box and break down the remaining boxes placing them into it like pages into a folder.
posted by axismundi at 7:05 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

A good razor cutter will help a ton. Don't bother trying to bend and fold them so they are manageable. All that does is give them more places where the bundle wants to spring open. You can use the existing folds, but don't try to make too many more. Cut instead. You can also make the twine more stable by cutting a very small slit for the twine to sit in on the outer most boxes. That way, the twine won't slide off as you pick it up.

A good box cutter is very sharp, so be mindful of where your fingers are and what you are cutting on.
posted by advicepig at 7:05 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Standing at the corner of a stack of boxes, take a long piece of twine and tape it across the far corner of the stack right in the middle of the string. Wrap each end of the string under the side corners of the stack, and tie tightly at the top of the corner closest to you.

Pick it up by grabbing any two opposite strings.

If you have boxes of varying sizes, get the two that are the most similar in size and sandwich the rest of them between those two.

Or yeah, like said above, if the twine's not a necessity, ditch it and pack 'em standing in the biggest box you can pick up. Move by picking that box up.
posted by carsonb at 7:09 PM on February 27, 2011

My only advice: biggest boxes in the middle, smallest boxes on the outside (so the little ones don't slip out).
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:13 PM on February 27, 2011

Get a tape gun and use packing tape. be much easier than using twine.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 7:34 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cardboard Baler
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:52 PM on February 27, 2011

I use packing tape to do this (I'm also in NYC). Lay boxes flat on the ground in a pile. They don't have to be uniform sizes, but it helps to fold the big boxes in half. Stick end of the tape to the box at the bottom of the pile, then pull it back and tightly wrap it around the pile until you reach the bottom again from the other side. Then wrap it around one more time. If you wrap it tight enough, you don't even have to do it the other way and then you can carry the pile using the tape as a handle. If the pile is too big to manage, wrap two or three sets of boxes.

Regarding the "put all the smaller boxes into the biggest box" method, local businesses do that all the time. Take note as you walk down the street on trash night.
posted by wondermouse at 7:53 PM on February 27, 2011

My strategy is to flatten the biggest box and fold it in half. Then flatten the others and put them inside the folded box, sort of like stuffing an envelope or a taco. Then I use packing tape (rather than twine) to keep it closed up. I've never had a problem with the package being rejected (and packing tape is already stuck to most boxes by the factory anyway, so the recycler must have a way of dealing w/ it).
posted by desl at 7:59 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Box-in-box is easiest, as above. - Note that, when you're flattening a box, the corner that's been lapped and glued together to turn the sheet of cardboard into a tube will act like a spring because it won't want to shut. Fold the box on the other corners and it'll usually lay flat.

As far as twine bailing - if you're facing the stack on the ground, the twine goes under the near side then out on the left, under the away side, through the near-left loop on the bottom, and out on the right, then you pass it through the left-away side loop on the top. You then tie half a square knot in the two ends of the twine and pull tight and finish the knot off.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:32 AM on February 28, 2011

Most boxes are constructed with two smooth outer layers, with a corrugated inner layer sandwiched between them. If you're trying to fold a box up, instead of cutting all the way through it, cut only deep enough to get through the smooth outer layer. That will give you a sort of "score line" to fold along, and the folds should go much better.

When cleaning out the shipping room at work, I usually just find the largest box I can comfortably carry, and lay it out flat. I flatten and stack all my other boxes on one side of this larger box, and then fold it over and make a sort of box taco, and tape the wide end closed with packaging tape. The pinch of the outer box is enough to keep the contents secure enough to make the trip out to the cardboard bin.
posted by xedrik at 11:00 PM on February 28, 2011

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