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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. Pare 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 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.

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  • Mariana O. 3 years ago
    used cardboard boxes
  • Patricia G. 3 years ago
    I keep boxes in the bottom of closets to put clothing that needs TLC or donation. The kids put stuff in them and I go through them before donating or repairing.
  • Lynne H. 3 years ago
    Please do NOT throw away your mascara wands. Instead, clean JUST THE WAND with dawn soap, place them in a ziploc bag and mail them to a Wildlife Refuge accepting donations. These little wands are able to be upcycled to clean away oil, larvae, fly eggs, mites, infections, mud and other contaminants from wildlife. Works great for medical care and wound treatment

    Pick your refuge to mail to:

    Appalachian Wild
    P.O. Box 1211
    Skyland NC 28776


    Wildlife Wands
    P.O. Box 1586
    Southwick, MA 01077.
  • Patricia G. 3 years ago
    When I used to move I used everything to haul stuff in. I used laundry baskets, drawers, and anything that fit stuff in it. I even used my old cloth laundry bags from the army. Wrap stuff up in sheets like clothes and towels. I stuffed the bread box full of stuff too.
    • Rena R. 3 years ago
      My sister-in-law moved frequently (military) and she taught me to pack everything -- including in the washing machine and dryer. Wrap dishes in towels instead of bubble wrap. Amazing how well it worked.
  • Ruthanne N. 3 years ago
    I donated boxed to my church for what they needed them for and I kept some boxes and turned them into filing boxes for my kids school papers and stuff they have made we decorated them with left over supplies from moving and coloring them kids had there own decorated container for there stuff in bedroom's
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