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Because You Asked: How Can I Reduce Waste During A Move?

By Recyclebank |

Reusable moving crates, smart packing, and eco-friendly services will help reduce the impact your move has on the environment, and perhaps your stress levels too.

Dear Recyclebank: How can we make our upcoming cross-country move as waste-free as possible? Last time we moved we ended up with lots of leftover packing materials and other random things we had to get rid of. –Hanna P.


Dear Hanna: Here are some of the top things you can do to reduce waste during your move:


1. Use recycled cardboard boxes and be sure to recycle them once you’re done with them.

2. Alternatively, rent plastic moving boxes.

3. Use soft goods, such as sweaters and blankets, and newspaper, as packing materials.

4. Pair down your belongings to what you really love, and donate the rest.

5. Seek out eco-friendly moving services that use tactics to reduce the carbon footprint of your move.


These are just a few of the ways you can make sure your move is more sustainable, which is a good idea because moving can create a lot of waste if you’re not careful.

The average four-person household could potentially use more than a hundred moving boxes to pack up a house, according to a calculator on Moving.com. Add in fourteen pounds of packing paper, ninety feet of bubble wrap, and three rolls of tape, and you’ve got a bundle of materials to get rid of when you settle into your new digs.

A move is a good opportunity to pare down your belongings, reducing the amount of stuff you have to transport to your new home. Use the weeks leading up the move to sort through items and determine which you ones you love and which ones you can do without. Sell, give away, or donate the latter.

You can cut down on the number of new cardboard boxes you purchase by renting plastic moving crates from services like Taggabox. These companies deliver the crates to your move-out location and pick them up once you’ve unpacked in your new home. Not only do rented crates reduce or eliminate the need for cardboard boxes, but they also make packing tape unnecessary, which is good because it’s not recyclable, according to a customer service representative from 3M.

More likely than not, you’ll still need a fair number of cardboard boxes. Social media and swap sites such as Freecycle are good options to round up used boxes from neighbors, giving the boxes another use rather than sending them to the recycling facility or the landfill. And of course, when you’re finished with them, you can pass the boxes along yet again if they’re still in usable shape. If not, cardboard can be recycled by most curbside recycling services.

Packing materials — bubble wrap, peanuts, and paper — also often fill the trashcans following a move. Reduce the amount of disposable materials you use by packing fragile items in soft goods from around your house, preferably from the same rooms as the items to make unpacking easier. Dishes can be layered with tablecloths and dishtowels; framed photos can be wrapped in bath towels or blankets. Clothing can also cushion fragile items. If you must use paper for packing, start collecting old newspapers from friends and neighbors in the weeks before your move, rather than purchasing packing paper from a moving service. Be sure to recycle the paper when you’re finished!

If you do end up with those dreaded packing peanuts, you can find a recycling facility that accepts them — sometimes shipping outlets like the UPS Store will accept them to reuse. Or you can opt for biodegradable packing peanuts, which break down with exposure to water. Plastic air pillows and bubble wrap are also recyclable through drop-off programs.

Finally, the moving service you use can also reduce your impact on the environment. Find a moving service that uses biodiesel fuel, and which will move several households in the same vehicle to maximize its use of fuel. This can help reduce the emissions associated with multiple households moving.

Moving is almost always stressful, but these tips should help reduce any stress you might have about ending up with mountains of moving-related waste in your new home.

Have you managed to reduce waste during your moving day? Share your tips in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Deborah P. 18 days ago
    Everytime we packed up a room we bought plastic containers (on sale). So much easier on the back. Plus you can store them and use them again. And the bubble wrap I have save we will use again.
  • Dawn V. 2 months ago
    We have recycled boxes from moves from our son's family, to our daughters family to her younger brother. Having 3 kids in college kids were moving all the time, so boxes were recycled several times and then taken to the cardboard recycler.
  • Anne W. 2 months ago
    It's been over 20 years since I've moved, and I hope I never have to do it again. However . . . you can find good, strong boxes with dividers in them at the closest liquor store. If you use them and then arrange to give them to someone else who's moving away from where you moved to, you cut down a whole lot on waste. If you have old furniture that LOOKS old, give it away and plan to purchase replacements at the thrift store at you new location. We got a lovely sofa and love seat for only $50 at DI, which is Utah's answer to Goodwill. In fact, do as much of your shopping as possible at a thrift store. You'll find many things that haven't been available in stores for years, or that are greatly reduced in price. paid $10 for my bread machine, which had never even been used! Now I save on bread wrappers by making my own bread, and by using a flour bin such as my grandmother used to use. This allows me to buy flour in 25-pound bags instead of 4-pound bags. Now if they'd just bring back the custom of packaging flour in calico bags instead of paper! I still remember how eagerly I watched the every bag of flour my grandmother brought home, thinking what a nice dress it would make for me. I still remember vividly the temper tantrum I threw when a particularly attractive piece of calico was to be bleached and made into underwear for my grandfather. In vain did I say that he could wait for the NEXT bag for his new underwear! If you check things available and published during World War II, you will find many, many suggestions for recycling. Nothing was wasted then.
    • Jeanne E. 1 month ago
      Wow, what an impressive post! Wish things could go back to simpler times. I shop thrift stores for great one of a kind pieces of quality furniture vs the cheap stuff today. Not sure about making my own underware but hey, great post!!!
  • Sharon A. 3 months ago
    We are going to be moving to an rv in the spring.We have to down down down size so we'll be donating many things to be recycled at our local thrift store for the homeless.
  • thadius l. 5 months ago
    Using clothes as soft packing materials is something i do all the time. I also use milk crates that i then re-use in the basement as very-moveable shelves
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