How Empty Is Your Box This Holiday Season?

December 5, 2013

It’s hard to believe that the year is already drawing to a close. We’re now in the midst of another holiday shopping season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us.

This is the time of year when most Americans tend to receive quite a few more packages than they normally do. And sadly, many of the products will be packaged terribly, giving little thought to resource use.

Our studies have shown that your average package is 40 percent empty space. My friends are always surprised when I tell them that statistic, but it’s surprisingly easy for a box to have a large amount of excess packaging. For example, I recently had this backup drive delivered to me by one of Seagate’s distributors.

meme4 backup drive

The dimensions of the drive’s box was 9″ x 8″ x 3.5″, while the box it arrived in was 10″ x 8″ x 5″. That’s an extra inch of length and an extra inch-and-a-half of height—not a lot, really. But when dealing with smaller boxes, it makes a world of difference. Now, imagine a truckload of packages boxed identically to the backup drive I received, and you’ve got a lot of air being delivered.

But that’s just a smaller item with a little bit of empty space. It didn’t even need any void fill. What about larger amounts of empty space? Well, here’s an item that was delivered to our office a couple of months ago:

meme1 85percent

For reference, the item was 4″ x 3″ x 9.5″, and the box was 10″ x 10″ x 8″. Note the ridiculous amount of bubble wrap that was needed.

Egregious amounts of void fill is one of those things that particularly annoys me. We’ve previously covered styrofoam packing peanuts and air pillows, and their effects on the environment in this blog.

Now let’s look at a truly egregious example of over-packaging:

meme2 double box

Yeah, that item was the only thing ordered. If you’re interested, the item was 2″ x 6″ x 10″, and it was inside a 8″ x 8″ x 14″ box, which was in another box that measured 20″ x  24″ x 20″—which means 98.8 percent of the box was empty packaging.

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