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Sustainable shipping boxes: Making e-commerce more environmentally friendly


E-commerce is booming - and with it the demand for shipping boxes and the volumes of packaging waste generated. This harms the environment and causes frustration among some customers. However, doing without shipping packaging entirely is not an option. After all, an increased incidence of transport damage and returns is no less harmful to the environment.

This makes it all the more important to find a good balance between protecting goods and protecting the environment. The good news is that optimizing shipping packaging in terms of sustainability often requires just a few changes - and these are usually neither difficult nor expensive.

It is important that you keep all essential aspects in mind: On the one hand, sustainable packaging must be just as resistant as conventional packaging, but on the other hand, it must also be free of pollutants that are harmful to the environment, optimally recyclable and ideally also suitable for reuse.

Jährliche Umsätze im E-Commerce

Nachhaltige Materialien


One of the most effective and easiest ways to make e-commerce more sustainable from a supplier's perspective is to rely on ecologically and recyclable materials. Cardboard and corrugated board are a very good choice for shipping boxes in this respect.

But here, as well, there are more and less sustainable variants. For example, a high proportion of recycled fibers is ecologically more favorable than a high proportion of virgin fibers. Also, untreated surfaces are better for the environment than bleached and painted surfaces.

If they are not urgently needed to protect the goods, coatings and laminations also do not make a desired contribution to the sustainability of the packaging. Because even if they are removable as part of the recycling process, reprocessing is made more difficult.



Shipping packaging must be larger than its contents, that is certain. After all, the goods must be protected from crushing and shocks. However, the volumes of shipping boxes are often much larger than necessary - and this can lead to a double increase in resource consumption: In order to prevent damage caused by the goods sliding out of place, the empty space is often filled with additional filling material.

Tip: As long as sufficient protection is still provided, you can save material on corrugated shipping boxes by using a finer flute type.


In the meantime, many companies have realized that paper, cardboard, wood wool and other plant-based materials are perfectly suitable as filling materials for shipping boxes. Environmentally, these natural materials are worlds ahead of their Styrofoam and plastic counterparts. So basically, the same applies here: The more natural the filling material, the better. 

Versandkartons in verschiedenen Größen

Versandkarton mit Aufreißstreifen


In e-commerce - and unfortunately this cannot be completely avoided - returns are a frequent occurrence. However, this problem can also be addressed in order to make packaging more sustainable.

A shipping carton with tear-off strips for example, prevents boxes from being damaged by customers when they are opened so that they are no longer usable for return shipping.


Many returned boxes are still in good shape after their first use. However, they are often not used a second time to send goods to a customer because the packaging may have gotten a few scratches and no longer looks new.

One solution would be to let customers decide for themselves whether they want to receive a used or new box. Environmentally conscious customers will give you credit.

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