Online Sellers: NEVER Use These 13 Recycled Packing Materials

Online Sellers: NEVER Use These 13 Recycled Packing Materials

Posted by Big Brand on 1st Aug 2021

If you’re an online seller, especially a new online seller, you are trying as hard as possible to save money wherever possible and packaging materials are one of the ways funds can be saved. 

Most online sellers try to use “recycled” packaging materials whenever possible. Many sellers even “upcycle” packaging supplies when available. If you’re not familiar with recycling vs upcycling here’s a super quick explanation:

If you order something from Amazon and you reuse the box to ship something to your buyer, you have Recycled.

If you have to ship a single Chapstick, so you use a cardboard toilet paper roll tube, this is Upcycling, because you found a different use for something that was not intended to be used that way.

Recycling and Upcycling, overall, are GREAT! But it can really backfire and a buyer can become so irate over their Chapstick being shipped inside a toilet paper tube that they nail you with bad feedback even though the chapstick is exactly what they wanted, it shipped fast and arrived in perfect condition, like this very upset Reddit user:

 With that being said, here’s a few recycling and upcycling “do’s and donts”.


1. If the parcel you are shipping LOOKS like you emptied your kitchen trash into the box for padding, this is very bad, even IF it is as safe and secure as can be.  Keep in mind that your buyers first impression is what they see when they OPEN the box.  

2. Do not use empty pop or water bottles as padding. The reason is because, especially during Covid, people are really concerned with “germs”, especially saliva.

3. Do not use diapers as padding. Yes, I realize the diapers are brand new and clean, but perception really IS everything and when you see a diaper you immediately think of the purpose of a diaper. It can really piss off the majority of buyers (pun intended!)

4. Plastic Grocery Bags: I think we are ALL guilty of upcycling plastic bags as padding. Heck, they’re free, they are terrible for the environment and they make stellar padding BUT if you read the comments from normal-everyday-buyers on Reddit you will see that plastic-bag-padding really irks people. Why? I have no idea. But what I think doesn’t matter. What matters is how the BUYER feels, even if their feeling is illogical.

5. Shipping inside a box that can freak people out - Kleenex boxes, for example, make people immediately think of a runny nose, head cold, or God Forbid… COVID!

We used to get these really phenomenal free boxes from 7-11 stores. The boxes were the cases that their wine coolers or beer, like Corona, would come inside. Exceptionally nice quality boxes. But buyers began complaining that the box featured “alcohol” and that alcohol was against their beliefs / religion / whatever-it-may-be. So we stopped using them.

Our friend Jay, who also owns a wholesale company, got a fantastic deal on brand new, mega-high-quality boxes that were manufactured for an Adult Diaper company, but due to a slight mis-print the diaper company couldn’t use them, so our friend Jay was happy to be eco-friendly and use these boxes, however his buyers weren’t so elated. In fact his buyers became livid that a parcel that said Adult Diapers was delivered to their home.

6. Scented Wrappings - I just finished reading a lengthy thread authored by a seriously upset buyer. She bought some higher end body care off Poshmark. The seller shipped it inside of an empty coffee container. Yes, the merchandise arrived in perfect shape but the buyer claims the “coffee smell” permeated the plastic of the body care… which makes sense because plastic absorbs odors. The angry purchaser says she ended up throwing out all of the body care because the coffee smell was so strong. - And this is a shame because, as sellers, we never want our buyers feeling like they have to throw away an item.

7. Empty Food Containers - Yep, I agree, the small, empty Sour Cream container is a perfect size to hold a designer watch that doesn’t have a box. Additionally it’s plenty sturdy, especially when stuffed with filler… BUT, once again, the idea of food that has been consumed by strangers (saliva, fingers, chewing, etc) is too much for most people to handle, especially during a pandemic.

8. Toilet Paper or Kleenex as Wrapping / Stuffing / Filler - Come on now. We are not even going to discuss this. 

9. This isn't really upcycling or recycling related, but taping the hell out of the item so it is essentially impossible to open is equally terrible.  Obviously you want it to arrive safe, and your buyer will appreciate you going the extra mile to package securely BUT if you put the chapstick inside the toilet paper tube then layer up 9 layers of duct tape, then put it in a bigger box and tape that shut too; you have created chaos for your buyer.  You don't want the buyer to be forced to break the item to remove it from the packaging

10.  If the box you are recycling is so worn that it has dents, holes or has been shipped so many times that the cardboard feels soft, like cloth, DO NOT USE IT!!!

11.  Equally, if the box you are recycling is covered in stickers (barcodes, address stickers, etc), be sure to take a permanent markers and BLOCK OUT all of this information!  These stickers can be accidentally mistaken for belonging on the package and can lead to delivery chaos! 

12. Ok, I know, it's super easy to make those little tiny confetti-like package fillers using a "micro paper shredder":

But, real talk, nobody wants this sh*t all over their floor when they open the package and attempt to remove the item:

If you want to use paper shreds, GREAT!!!  But instead opt for a standard Strip Shredder and AVOID "micro shred" products. 

13.  If you want to recycle / upcycle Newspaper, Wonderful!!!  Newsprint is a very common packing material.  But to avoid angry purchasers, be sure to glance at the paper and throw out (or Shred) any "questionable content" that might offend people.   My son once bought a Thomas the Tank Engine diecast train off eBay from a seller in Las Vegas and it came wrapped in sex-ad paper.  Not cool bro.  

If you want AMAZING advice for shipping, packing and more, check out our blog category called How to Pack and Ship.  We have years worth of amazing content that we wrote to help you do it right.... and still save money, without getting bad feedback.  :)  

~ Happy Selling, my friends! 

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