Can I Use Plastic Storage Bins as Outer Packaging?

Learn why carriers don't suggest shipping inside of plastic storage bins, even though it is technically allowed
use storage bins to ship
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Are you getting ready to move? If so, you might find yourself with some storage bins that you’re tempted to just ship instead of haul around. No one wants to unpack all of that stuff just to put it back in another box! The truth is, you can use plastic storage bins to ship with pretty much any carrier…but even though carriers might allow you to do it (key word: might), it’s not something we ever suggest.

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Carriers May Prevent You From Using Plastic Storage Bins for Shipping

If you walk into a Post Office, UPS, or FedEx store, they may turn you away for bringing in a plastic bin. Technically, it does count as packaging, since it acts as a protective layer that houses whatever’s inside. However, whether a shipping carrier accepts storage bins as packages is typically up to the discretion of the workers at the Post Office/UPS Store/FedEx location. We’ve seen them accept bins in some cases, and in others, we’ve seen them require the bin to be placed inside a cardboard box before they take it (which sort of defeats the whole purpose of shipping in a storage bin in the first place).

While there’s no written rule in any of the carriers’ policies that prevent you from shipping in plastic bins, none will ever suggest using these. Bins are notoriously difficult to keep sealed and shut, which poses problems during transit, and when it’s time to carry out the final delivery.

The Proper Way to Use a Storage Bin as Outer Packaging

Should you decide to use a plastic bin as your outer packaging, you’ll want to make sure it’s as closed shut as possible. The best strategy is to run several layers of industrial packing tape over the container’s lid. This way, none of the items inside will fall out at any point. Once you’ve packed it, a good test to see if you may need more tape on the lid is to tilt the bin from side to side. If the top of the bin stays shut, you’re good to go!

Pro Tip: Plastic storage bins have a lot of space inside of them, so you should also consider filling them out with the right kinds of packing material. Packing materials like air pillows and packing peanuts can fill out the space inside your shipment and protect any fragile items you’re sending.

You Will Likely Pay Dimensional Weight Charges

On top of the actual packaging challenges, you should also be ready to pay dimensional weight charges when sending plastic bins. Dimensional weight (or “DIM,” for short) refers to the amount of space your shipment takes up on a carrier’s delivery truck. DIM weight charges mostly apply to lightweight, larger shipments…and bigger plastic storage bins are a prime target for these charges.

Each carrier has a special formula to calculate the dimensional weight of large packages. Basically, if your dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight of your package (or plastic bin, in this case), you’ll pay for shipping the DIM weight instead of the actual weight, and the carrier will make more money.

Depending on the carrier you use, dimensional weight charges can add up to some pretty crazy amounts. Learn more about dimensional weight charges and how to avoid them.

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  1. Brad

    The other reason is that some plastic bins break when dropped full of stuff. The RubberMades don’t, they’re a more lfexible rubber. However, the warehouse crates sold a HomeDepot crack pretty easily when dropped on a corner. Of course, UPS never drops anything, right?

  2. Christina Hopper

    How much is it to mail a total with ups


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