Making cardboard boxes even greener -- without recycling

Nature of Business Radio

Making cardboard boxes even greener -- without recycling

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

Last week it was all about recycling electronics in my conversation with Israel Ganot of Gazelle. This week it was all about recycling cardboard boxes. I spoke with Marty Metro, CEO of UsedCardBoardBoxes.com about his business that finds an extended market for the omnipresent cardboard box.

As is the case with electronics, the quandary of what to do with used cardboard boxes beyond simply recycling them after one use is something that resonates with many. And in the larger universe of the cardboard box, many simply go to waste due to overruns, misprints from manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Now UsedCardboardboxes.com has positioned itself to swoop right in and grab these boxes thereby creating a new market for the used cardboard box.

As described on their site:

We rescue (buy) truckloads of quality used boxes from large companies that might otherwise recycle them or simply throw them away. We bring the boxes back to one of our regional distribution centers where they are inspected and sorted by size and shape. Boxes that meet our strict requirements for quality, shape and strength are pre-packed (along with convenient accessories) into our low-cost, earth-friendly stacks and kits. We then resell those boxes to customers all across the USA, via our website. We offer free shipping on any residential order and guarantee delivery in 1-2 business days.

Seems simple enough. It is actually quite complex and to make everything work seamlessly technology plays a big role. In fact, Marty refers to his company as a "National Logistics" company. The residential component of their business is just one part of a bigger picture. They also partner with Fortune 500 companies to reduce their packaging costs, which can be an astounding $100 million dollars annually.

With those kind of numbers, it isn't surprising that UsedCardboardboxes.com got the attention of UPS and several others as well including Wal-Mart. If UsedCardboardboxes.com can help them reduce their costs 15-20 percent, they are all ears. They also provide landfill diversion rates and recycling diversion rates for these companies ... information companies can use in their sustainability reporting and information that is also invaluable to municipalities.

Now let's think about the beer manufacturer for a minute. (It's Friday as I write this.) They make the beer but not the boxes. This beer manufacturer now has the ability to reuse the original box in which the beer was distributed multiple times thanks to the logistical support of UsedCardBoardboxes.com and its sophisticated tracking system using bar codes, computer software, and quality control.

I asked Marty how the recyclers felt about his business and he candidly responded that they initially exhibit signs of discontent because they look at these boxes as ones they can no longer buy, crush, and ship to China where the demand is. Certainly they are in competition with the recyclers, but as Marty explains, they can't use company scrap so there is still a large role for the recyclers to play. And the reality is that all cardboard boxes at the end of their useful life, we inevitably become scrap.

Marty talks candidly about his experience in business and the peaks and valleys he has experienced thus far. It's very interesting to hear how he has come out of $300,000 in debt as a result of the first iteration of this company to now running a successful and financially sustainable business. (They also strive to be zero waste.)

They are currently launching facilities all over country including Maryland and Indiana. In Marty's words, "We are out to work with large companies get them to make a little more money on recycling than they were and spend less on packaging. We are also employing people and making money."

I buy it.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.

Cardboard box photo CC-licensed by Loungerie.