The Worst Of 2011: Plastic Moving Boxes


The moving business in Vancouver is beset with all manner of disingenuousness. Little however comes close to the merde de taureau perpetrated by companies promoting plastic moving boxes. Billed as an environmentally user-friendly alternative to cardboard boxes, these round trip totes are nothing more than greenwash writ large. I’ve written extensively about this scourge before, so for brevity I will articulate in point form.

(1) The refrain is generally the same for all companies promoting plastic moving boxes; they are “environmentally friendly”, but is this true? At first glance the idea of taking recyclable plastic and creating multiple use boxes does sound encouraging, but we can easily take recycled cardboard and make a similar claim. From this point the argument grows more opaque; for example, plastic is manufactured from a non renewable resource oil, whereas cardboard comes a renewable resource. Then the argument may diverge into the issue of product creation, does it take more energy to create a plastic box (gathering the plastic, melting it down, injecting the molds etc) or a cardboard one (cutting down the trees, driving or dragging them from the bush, creating pulp etc)? To my eye this part of the argument is a wash since most people lack the technical ability to know accurately which product/process is better. There is however one salient aspect of the environmental impact where there is no argument.

Empty plastic moving boxes are 8.4 pounds whereas a comparable cardboard moving box is 2.1 pounds. A net comparative difference of 6.3 pounds per box. So what is the big deal you ask? Let’s extrapolate: If there is a million plastic moving boxes in use in North America (and it’s likely there are 10x as many) 8.4 million pounds of plastic are being regularly transported around the continent, burning the required amount of fuel to get them from A to B. How many gallons of fuel? A thousand? Ten Thousand? And the result? An increase in greenhouse gases from burned fuel.

In a classic case of misdirection, plastic moving box companies draw your attention to the idea of using recycled plastic to give the impression of environmental friendliness all the while their product is doing exponential harm to the environment because of increased fuel consumption. But wait, there is more!

(2) Plastic moving boxes have a raised grid on the underside of the container that can scratch your hardwood floors.

(3) Slippery tapered sides on these boxes make them difficult to grasp from the bottom, additionally these tapered sides also prevent them from being put on a trolley (or hand cart).

(4) Since these boxes generally come in one size fits all, they tend to be overloaded. I’ve illustrated that a plastic moving box with books is in excess of 90 pounds! For comparison, a proper book box should weigh about 35 pounds.

(5) These boxes are created from a rigid plastic. If you bump a wall or strike a narrow door frame while carrying this box you will do damage, as opposed to a cardboard box which deflects.

(6) Cost. I’ve heard people tell me 25 plastic moving boxes cost about $100 delivered, however a quick check at Home Depot revealed recycled 3.0 cubic foot cardboard boxes cost only $1.49 ea.

(7) Plastic moving boxes are neither mover, cost, nor environmentally friendly. Do not be fooled, use proper sized recycled cardboard boxes.

* For an expanded discussion on the points above and more;

Plastic Moving Boxes Will Kill You (and ruin your floors too)!!!

Plastic Moving Boxes In Vancouver? Just Say No!