More than 72 million metric tons of paper and cardboard were produced in the United States in 2017. This number increases year after year. If you're looking for an additional source of income, consider selling cardboard. With some research, you can build a profitable and sustainable cardboard business that requires minimal startup costs.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Collect cardboard from local factories, supermarkets, liquor stores and restaurants. Set up an online store or an eBay store to sell cardboard directly to consumers. Another option is to use BoxCycle, BoxSmart, Rebox and other online platforms that pay cash for cardboard and packing materials.
Cardboard Market Overview
From factories and manufacturing plants to shipping companies, nearly every business uses cardboard in one form or another. A consulting firm, for instance, may use cardboard to store files and office supplies. Online retailers ship their products in cardboard boxes. Supermarkets use this material to pack, store or deliver products to their customers.
The cardboard box and container manufacturing industry in the U.S. generated $68 billion in 2019. Thousands of cardboard boxes end up in the trash, polluting the environment. What many consumers don't know is that corrugated cardboard boxes are made from strong paper fibers that can be reused, reducing the need to cut down trees. Over three tons of trees are needed to make one ton of virgin cardboard. Recycling this material requires only 75% of the energy used to produce it.
Companies that produce this material emit smoke, dust and toxic fumes that cause air pollution. In fact, cardboard and paper emit far more greenhouse gases than plastic materials over the entire life of the packaging. Therefore, it's no wonder why a growing number of businesses are investing in cardboard recycling. Some retailers even encourage customers to return the cardboard boxes in which they receive their products.
Make Money Selling Cardboard
Selling cardboard can be a profitable venture. After all, this material is widely available and can be used many times. As an entrepreneur, you can recycle old cardboard boxes for cash. The ones you have at home or in your office are a good starting point, but you may also collect used cardboard boxes from:
- Your family and friends
- Liquor stores
- Grocery stores
- Book stores
- Freecycle, an online platform where users give away unwanted goods
- Craigslist's free section
- Bars and restaurants
- Local factories and retail stores
Next, rent a small warehouse or a garage to store your cardboard boxes. If you only have a few, you can sell them on eBay, Craigslist or on dedicated platforms that pay cash for cardboard. BoxCycle, Rebox, UsedCardboardBoxes.com and BoxSmart are just a few examples. Rebox, for instance, claims to offer more money for used cardboard boxes than traditional recyclers, and all you need to do is fill out a brief form online to get a quote.
Another great resource is RecycleFinder. This mobile app displays local recycling facilities based on your ZIP code. Make sure you also check out BoxCycle, a platform that connects cardboard sellers with potential buyers. You can sell any type of cardboard, from files boxes to specialty moving boxes.
Launch an Online Business
Selling cardboard can be a lucrative business if you put in the time and effort. Consider setting up an eBay store to display your boxes and packing materials. All you need to do is sign up for a seller account, upload product photos and write detailed descriptions for each item.
The downside is that you'll pay listing and selling fees plus other charges for listing upgrades, such as photo galleries and subtitles. Ebay isn't your only option, though. You can also launch an online store to eliminate the middleman and cut costs. For instance, Chris Dermody, product owner at Flipdish, made €20,000 ($22,300+) by selling cardboard boxes on his website.
Depending on your technical skills, you may use a dedicated e-commerce platform or a regular content management system, such as WordPress. Display your products, optimize your listings for the search engines and create content that appeals to both readers and search engines. For instance, you can share the reasons you're selling cardboard, write about its environmental impact and teach your customers how to recycle products and reduce their carbon footprint.
- Statista: Production of Paper and Cardboard Worldwide 2007 to 2017
- IBISWorld: Cardboard Box & Container Manufacturing Industry in the US - Market Research Report
- Valley Community for Recycling Solutions: Recycling Cardboard and Brown Paper Bags Helps Reduce Pollution
- Earth911: How to Recycle Cardboard
- Chris Dermody: How I Made €20,000 on the Side by Selling Second-Hand Cardboard Boxes
- Recycling.com: Cardboard Recycling for Companies
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Business Guide
- It's best to have at least a couple hundred pounds of cardboard before cashing it in. It makes it more worth your time to take a large group.
- Another way to find more cardboard is to offer your service as a recycler. You can pay individuals for their boxes at a lower price than what you receive from the recycler. Many people would be very happy to have this door-step service.
- Never try to overload your containers with rocks or other foreign material before taking them to the recycler. It's unethical and can get you into trouble.
Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.