The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 30, 2010

Green Shipping Materials, Including Plastic-Free Paper Packing Tape

Before companies send me products to review, I always request that they not use any plastic packaging, including tape. Some comply. Others have a hard time with it, and their packaging ends up in my tally. I’m writing this post not only to help Fake Plastic Fish readers make plastic-free packaging choices, but also to have a web page to which I (and you!) can direct vendors when asking for no plastic packaging. Just trying to make life easier for all of us.

So, here are the options:

Re-Use Shipping Materials

The greenest option will always be to reuse what you already have. And the company setting one of the best examples is BuyGreen.com. They boast that they have never bought new packing boxes or supplies. They shipped my Plastic Pollution Coalition t-shirt in a used Blackberry box:

BuyGreen packaging materials

And BuyGreen even includes a sticker on the box advertising the fact that the packaging is used. Some vendors worry that reusing boxes will make them look cheap. A sticker like this helps to explain the choice to customers that might not understand that cheap can also be eco-friendly!

BuyGreen packaging materials

Paper Packing Tape

While most of BuyGreen’s shipping supplies are used, the company does have to purchase new tape. They actually brand their own paper tape, and they also sell it to other vendors. Contact BuyGreen.com if you’re interested in ordering paper tape printed with your company’s name/logo.

BuyGreen packaging materials

BuyGreen’s tape is reinforced with thread. For my own home purposes, I buy plain paper tape that tears off easily from the roll. I bought this tape at a local office supply store.

paper packing tape

The tape is water-activated. I tear off a strip and run it under the sink to wet.  Since I don’t ship packages very often, I don’t feel the need for a tape dispenser.  But retailers may want to invest in one.

paper packing tape

Then, I use the tape to seal up my own reused shipping envelopes or boxes. Anyone who has received a give-away package directly from me can testify that it came taped up with brown paper tape.

paper packing tape

Other Plastic-Free packing supplies

Here’s a list of kinds of packaging materials you might use to protect your contents. Remember that reused/repurposed materials are always the best choice.

*Reused packing materials from packages sent to you.
* Yesterday’s News padded mailers made from recycled newspaper fiber
* Jiffy padded mailers (the kind with paper pulp padding rather than plastic bubble padding)
* Paper packing tape
* Molded paper pulp
* EcoCradle molded packing material made from mushrooms
* PaperNuts
* Geami protective wrap
* Expandos
* CareMail Brand packing materials (But be aware that some of these products come packaged in plastic bags.)
* Globe Guard Products is a good source for many plastic-free shipping products, although be aware that some things are plastic.

And check out this great Plastic-Free Green Product Packaging Tutorial from Picnic Basket Crafts that shows exactly how to wrap packages using paper tape.

I’ll continue to add to this list as I discover new options. Please leave a comment and let me know what you use for shipping stuff.

———————————-

Disclosure: Fake Plastic Fish is a BuyGreen affiliate, which means that if you purchase products from BuyGreen via a link on this web site, Fake Plastic Fish earns a little money towards my next educational field trip. Check out my full Advertising/Review/PR policy here (where you’ll also see info for vendors about my shipping requirements.)

36 comments
TraceyTief
TraceyTief

Buy paper taper at Uline. ca in Canada, Uline.com in the US.

unless you are sending super big and gheavy boxes, you don't need reinforcement in it.

I mail out 5 packages a day of glass & metal packaged cosmetics and it works just fine!

TraceyTief
TraceyTief

Buy paper taper at Uline. ca in Canada, Uline.com in the US.

unless you are sending super big and gheavy boxes, you don't need reinforcement in it.

I mail out 5 packages a day of glass & metal packaged cosmetics and it works just fine!

{Business Tips} Greening Your Shipping Practices
{Business Tips} Greening Your Shipping Practices

[...] 4.  NikkiDesigns – Nikki uses boxes and other packaging reclaimed from a local blinds store to ship her ecofriendly bedding and accessories.  She minimizes the use of plastic adhesives by using the  paper tape she learned about here. [...]

kanishka
kanishka

fyi, caremail has papertape now, though only staples seems to carry it. hope green stores pick it up soon.

Sakeenah
Sakeenah

Also, just wanted to let you know I followed the paper packing tape link to EcoBox.com and sent them an email asking if the reinforced tape has fiberglass, they replied that it does.

Sakeenah
Sakeenah

Thanks for this post! I ship a lot on ebay and I will stop using plastic tape. It seems really hard to find reinforced WAT tape that does not have fiberglass - which is really plastic, who knew glass that is plastic :/ I love the link to the tutorial on PicnicBasketCrafts it helps a lot.

Harjeet Singh Oberoi
Harjeet Singh Oberoi

Hi Its been a great thought of being Plastic Free Surroundings We must try to clear our minds first & then livings This plastic menace has put our universe in trouble and we're responsible for the same Lets join our hands to make our world Plastic Free Wishing every body A Good, Green Environment Friendly Life Go Green & Live Green Harjeet INDIA

Dennis Salazar
Dennis Salazar

We represent the largest manufacturer of paper tape and the adhesive is most definitely vegatable based. Hope that helps. Dennis Salazar www.globeguardproducts.com

CraigP
CraigP

Beth (and everyone) - do you know about the adhesive on the paper tape? What type it is? For strict vegans animal products are off-limits. Some glue is (or was) made from rendered animal remains or uses casein, a milk-derived product. I could be that these ingredients are no longer used in this country, but I'm not sure. Also I was wondering about recycling of plastic tape. Do you have a source for recycling it? And those plastic net bags that oranges, grapefruit, and avocados come in - what do you do with those? Thanks

Food Forest
Food Forest

I use cardboard in my garden as mulch. The new paper tape with fiberglass thread sticks to the box when I attempt to tear it off. I don't want the fiberglass thread in my garden obviously. Much of my boxes come from Amazon.com Is there anything I can do besides cutting away any cardboard with tape on it? So far the fiberglass thread sticks to the box even if I can get the top layer of paper tape off. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Manuel
Manuel

This is a very useful post. We really have to reuse materials that can still be usable. We have to respond to the problems of our environment. We can still use packaging boxes... To make it more presentable, we just add some designs on it. A decorative rubber stamp maybe? (: let us all think GREEN!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Vanessa, yes. In fact, Eco Cradle, one of the options I listed, is made from mushrooms.

Suzanne
Suzanne

Thanks Beth, this comes at a perfect time, I am in need of S&H supplies and wanted to be really careful of using no plastic. Metal or glass tins for my product and eco friendly mainly reused packaging is how we are going to do it. the sticker is a great idea also, I'll have to see about those. We love Patagonia clothing and they have re used packaging for a long time now.

Dennis Salazar
Dennis Salazar

Good morninng and thank you for the very nice comments about our Globe Guard products line. Yes, we do carry some plastic products because a segment of the green community insists on them for their light weight and of course water proof characteristics. However, we do work to make sure those plastic products , are either made of recycled content, are easily recyclable, and/or biodegradablesuch as our new biodegradable bubble packaging on rolls. Different products for different customers and applications. Thanks, Dennis Salazar www.GlobeGuardProducts.com

Maddie
Maddie

Perfect timing! I just used the last of my plastic packing tape and was justifying that since I use so little, it would be okay to buy more. Thanks for the resources, my next roll of tape will be paper.

Ms. Adventuress
Ms. Adventuress

Fabulous! And...I've come to redirect you over to my new site. Even though my old blog/id isn't going to be connected to my new site/moniker, I think you'll know it's "me!" www.msadventuress.com

Ms. Adventuress
Ms. Adventuress

Excellent. And...I've come to redirect you to my new site/moniker, which isn't connected to my old site/id, but I think you'll know it's me... :o) www.msadventuress.com

Jenny
Jenny

Reusing boxes is great, but to the vendors out there, please please please please make sure the box is appropriate for the thing being shipped. I work for UPS and I see a lot of things busting out of boxes, not because the box is used but because it wasn't built for the thing being shipped. Mostly it's machinery, engine parts, stuff like that. If you dump a small motor into a box that used to hold cheez-its, the motor is going to flop around during shipping until it breaks free. And then we have to retape it. And we use lots of (plastic) tape when we retape things. Also, those flat plastic straps? Those are great for keeping boxes on a pallet from falling over, but using them on a single box is usually a waste. They tend to snag in our facility, break or fall off and, after someone trips on them, thrown in the trash.

Darris
Darris

Kiyomi, I for one am using up what I have and giving away what I can't bear to use anymore. Of course my husband is not a convert so he still brings paraphernalia into the household. . . . . for now anyway . . . Before you use something up find a non-plastic alternative. It can be challenging sometimes to find non-plastic items so do a bit of homework. Of course you've found the best resource around right here on Fake Plastic Fish ~ welcome!

Darris
Darris

Thank you for this post Beth. I searched all over the Internet for paper packing tape. I typically buy my office supplies from Office Depot but they do not (last I checked) carry paper packing tape without any plastic. I did find some at a packing supply online store (the name escapes me). I do a fair amount of shipping and the tape has always been a real bugaboo for me. Thanks everyone for all your tips. FPF is always a great resource for information!

Valerie Reddemann
Valerie Reddemann

Hi Beth Nice post. As the founder of Greenfeet.com - a 13 year old retailer of responsible, sustainable goods, I'm pleased to say that we've been using responsible shipping materials from the beginning. We have the same roll of bubble wrap we've had for over 3 years (we keep it cuz it's kinda cool that we haven't had to use it). We use Geami, unprinted 100% recycled newsprint, recycled content boxes (we also reuse boxes but our volume is high so we need uniform sized boxes. The rest of the boxes we can't used are baled and recycled yet again). We have paper tape - ours is also reinforced as the plain paper tape falls apart if your box has any weight to it. We do reuse all inbound packaging -so if we get peanuts, bubble wrap, etc it's reused. We have a stamp we've been using for over 6 years that says "blatantly reused packaging". D.C. commented on now having sources to send retailers to can't find anything better than plastic. That's excellent - there's no excuse to not opt for responsible options. What they do need to invent is a Tyvek type envelope made from better materials. Paper envelopes do not hold up well through shipping systems. We've tried and experienced too high a loss to continue. We use them for light, flat items but pilfering is another problem. I'm loving that there are more and more sustainable, responsible options out there. Keep up your outstanding work! Valerie Reddemann President Greenfeet.com Co-host More Than Hippie Podcast

D.C.
D.C.

Thank you so much for posting this. Now I have somewhere to direct retailers who say they can't find anything better than plastic envelopes and plastic bubble padding. I am so sick of getting eco-friendly products in plastic bags!!!

sui
sui

Awesome tips! I use Globe Guard paper-pulp packaging envelopes and write personally for each thing I send out "please reuse / recycle" :] though I could definitely use more paper tape!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Tiffany, I totally forgot about your paper tape tutorial! I just added it to the list in this post. It's kind of fun adding to this post as we go along. It's really a group effort and hopefully a page that can be useful to anyone asking a vendor to skip the plastic. Just point them to this page.

Tiffany Norton
Tiffany Norton

I have been using and blogging about paper tape for quite some time. I have shipped over 400 packages using this tape, and reclaimed materials, and have never ONCE had a customer report that a package was not received in tact. I use the unreinforced kind, since the fiberglass threads in the reinforced stuff can't be recycled. My advice to anyone using this tape with reclaimed boxes: 1. If you are reusing cereal or other kinds of boxes with a shiny side out, tear the box open and re-tape it shut inside out. The tape will not stick well to glossy finishes. 2. Use a squirt bottle if you don't have a sink at your workspace. I did the wet rag for a while, but really prefer the spray bottle. 3. If you get your hands on one of those decorative hole punches (I found one at goodwill!), you can make pretty little seals for envelopes and the like. Mine does a flower shape, and is big enough for my arrow-chasing rubber stamp. 4. If you are reusing boxes which have already got plastic packaging tape, but you need to seal them with paper tape, you will need to remove the plastic tape first. The paper tape will not stick well to anything but paper. Can I plug here? My tutorials on making paper-only packages can be found on my blog: picnicbasketcrafts.blogspot.com

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Mary, thanks for letting me know about Globe Guard Products. I added them to the list.

Mary
Mary

Thank you so much for this great post and list of resources! A big portion of my (sustainable) business is online sales, and so the issue of packaging is very important to me. I currently use Geami and CareMail and I'm also a big fan of Globe Guard Products. But, I hadn't heard of several of the other companies you listed in this post. Great to know about these alternatives!

Tracey
Tracey

Hey all, I post exclusively using reused packaging - mailers, envelopes, boxes, packing peanuts, paper, plus 100% recycled labels and paper tape like Beth bought. http://www.anarreshealth.ca/node/259 It works great! I used a wet cloth to moisten the tape. Running it under the tap can make it too wet for busy me! Even the non reinforced stuff I have holds together cartons of 35lbs. I mail out =- 500 orders a year using only reused and recycled materials, and no plastic tape. I freecycle extra bubble wrap and recycle lots of boxes and paper, still. Oh and I wrap my parcels in leftover Planet in Focus Film Festival posters! http://feelgoodguru.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/planet-in-focus-150x150.png I've got to get my suppliers on the job, though... most of them send me fresh stuff, even "No Plastic"! I did manage to get my biggest supplier to refill 4 litre jugs on request, though! All it took was ASKING! Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Five Seed, thanks for the heads up CareMail. I added it to the list. As for plastic tape that's already on the box, definitely leave it on there! You only need to use the new tape to close the box back up. I should have specified that. Kiyomi, I would give away plastic supplies like you mention to someone on Freecycle. I would give them to someone who is likely to use them anyway. I can understand why you would be hesitant to give the stuff to a friend when you are trying to get your friend not to use it. But there are plenty of people who would just go out and buy new Zip Lock bags, for example, and using yours would mean buying fewer new ones. Kay -- my paper tape has held up well, as far as I know. So far, no one has complained about their package ripping. It does take a bit longer than plastic tape because you need to smooth it out and make sure it's stuck on very well. But once it dries, it really stays put. Madz, yes, the paper tape is just like the postage stamps that you lick. But I wouldn't want to actually lick a whole strip of tape! If you had a lot of packing to do, you could rub water on with a sponge.

Madz
Madz

I havebeen reusing existing packagesI have received mail in (plastic or non-plastic) but where possible I do request plastic free packaging. However, I have struggled with finding plasticfree tape. Even the natural cellulose one's come on a plastic ring. I haven't been able to find paper tape yet but does it work on the same basis as the old lick and stick postage stamps?

Kay Pere
Kay Pere

We recently picked up a roll of paper tape, as shown above, from Staples. We got the non-reinforced kind, too. I'd be interested to know how well it's worked for others on boxes sent through the mail. Does it hold up? For several years, I've collected all of the packing peanuts and bubble mailers we receive and taken them to a local business that does UPS and Fedex shipping for people, so they can be reused. Not quite as good as reducing the demand in the first place, but this business is always happy to take and use what I bring in. When mailing flat rate boxes from CT to my mom in CA, and back again, we make a sport of seeing how many trips the same box can make before losing structural integrity. We keep a list of these trips on the bottom of the box, for example: CT-->CA 9/30/1020. Now I'll start using paper tape on these boxes, now that I've got it. Will ask if Mom wants a roll, too, and send one if she agrees. For mailing my pottery to customers I use the funnies pages (comics) saved from our daily paper as packing material, though our subscription may be cancelled at the end of this year, as a cost saving and environmental measure.

Kiyomi
Kiyomi

I have been wondering what plastic-free-minded people do about things that they still have in stock. I am a new plastic-free "convert," and still have boxes of zip lock bags, plastic packing tape reels, conventional dish washer detergent, an extra bottle of clorox, plastic draw string trash bags, you name it. Probably very typical of what's found in typical American household. Well, of course, I don't want to just throw them away, but I don't want to use them either. It feels a bit counter productive to be giving them away as I want to encourage people around me to see the alternative. What a dilemma. The worst things is that I can't just leave them to rot! What's the most reasonable way of handling this sin from the past?

AJP
AJP

I get a lot of books for review from giveaway programs, and so I get a lot of mailers. I can't reuse all of them so every few months I give a bunch away on Freecycle. That would probably be a great place to seek out used mailers.

Five Seed
Five Seed

Thanks for this resource page! Your website has been so helpful for me when looking for non-plastic packaging. And I found some of my own like CareMail's paper envelopes (made from recycled paper and fully recyclable), and some recyclable paper tape from Staples. (I'm going to look into the one you showed here - love it.) I also reuse boxes, but I have found one loophole. I almost never get boxes from vendors who use paper tape (frown), so I tend to leave these boxes taped together with the plastic tape for reuse. It just seems better to reuse the box as is and wasteful to peel the tape off, throw it away, and put on paper tape. Hopefully, one day, we will stop using all this plastic packaging altogether!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Craig. I haven't researched the adhesive on the tape. Maybe someone else knows. As far as recycling, I don't know of any way to recycle plastic tape. That's one of the reasons it's a problem. I don't use it. And I don't buy produce in those net bags because those can't be recycled either. I just buy loose produce.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 4.  NikkiDesigns – Nikki uses boxes and other packaging reclaimed from a local blinds store to ship her ecofriendly bedding and accessories.  She minimizes the use of plastic adhesives by using the  paper tape she learned about here. [...]