the packaging dilemma

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's getting down to the wire now with the Etsy shop opening. I'm sticking with the January 15th date, although it looks like my selection won't be complete. I don't think my t-shirts will arrive in time, but that will give me something to list the following week.

Time to think about how to package and mail stuff in case I actually sell something. It really is a dilemma. Most clothing companies have gone to recyclable plastic mailers made of partially recycled material. The advantages are the cheapness, lightweightness (reduces shipping cost), and waterproofness. Then even though the outer packaging is waterproof, the clothes inside are individually bagged in more plastic. I know why they do it- to keep them clean during the picking process in the warehouse- but I still don't like it. "Recyclable" is somewhat of a loose term when it comes to plasticy substances if you ask me. The Lands' End mailer I am examining right now has a #4 recycle symbol on it. Here in Delaware only #1 & #2 plastics are taken. #4 goes straight to the landfill.

If I went this route, Uline makes a tear-proof polyolefin mailer that is a very cheap option at $24 for a case of 100 12x15 1/2 mailers. I'm just not ready to give up on something more green yet.

In my searching, I came across a plastic mailing product that is actually biodegradable. Now we're talking! EcoEndure is onto something. Their polypropylene is molecularly altered to degrade over time. Bacteria can actually break it down! It is certified compostable! A pack of 25 8 1/2 x 11 mailers is a doable $12.60, but there are two problems: they are clear and 8 1/2 x 11 is the biggest size. They are meant for mailing booklets and papers. I can't see mailing clothing in a clear mailer. Now come up with a bigger, opaque version, and that would be exciting! That is, if people actually composted them and didn't send them to the landfill anyway.

I'm seriously considering CareMail mailers . They are made from unbleached 90% recycled paper that is 50% post consumer which I feel is "less bad" than the standard plastic variety and I like the way they look. They claim to be rugged and are cushioned too. They can be recycled yet again with your mixed papers. Maybe the mailers would be durable enough to be used multiple times- you wouldn't do that with the plastic ones. It would be even better if they were compostable, but the two real problems I have with them are the price- $1.15 each if you buy 25 of the 10 1/2 x 14 3/4 size and the fact that they are not waterproof. I was trying to avoid having to use a plastic bag inside, but maybe that's not such a huge concern. It would have to be pretty wet to soak through the package. The mailman would have to leave it on an unsheltered porch during a storm. Don't most people have a storm door that packages can be tucked inside of?

Probably the most green thing to do would be to just reuse boxes I already have. I ordered a couple of small fabric pouches from Sweet and Light recently, and Jayne mailed them to me in a flattened cereal box turned inside-out and taped around the edge. I don't know if most people would find that cute, but I appreciated it enough to start saving some cereal boxes myself. I like the looks of the Care Mail mailer better, but you can't beat the price of the cereal box! She did use a small plastic bag inside for protection, though, so I'm back to how to deal with the water resistance problem. I guess I could use grocery bags, but they are so trashy. I'm trying to be an upscale yet green brand here!

I'm open to suggestions. Please comment if you have any!


Anonymous said...

Theoretically cardboard and paper do compost when discarded with the trash into the landfill. The less air and water they are exposed to the longer it takes for them to dissolve and decompose...but eventually...Rosemary Luckett,

missy_minzy said...

Just wanna drop you an encouragement note.
Good on you to take the plunge on setting up etsy store too!
I found myself going through the exact situation like you! I wish you all the best and I hope it all turns out well, Rebecca! X
Irene aka Missy Minzy

Jenny said...

I ship a lot of things in the USPS Priority Mail envelopes. They're Cradle to Cradle certified, water-resistant and they're free! I'm still looking for a way to mail pillow inserts, though, so when I figure that out I'll let you know...

Ginger said...

I like to send things in flat cereal boxes too. I use my serger to "seam" around the edges and double-stick tape for the top flap. Just be ready to put in fresh needles after making a few.

Becky said...

I like your idea of serging around the edges of the cereal box, Ginger. I bet that looks extra-cool!

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