Reusing packaging is a popular method to achieve zero waste shipping, and more businesses are embracing to reduce their carbon footprints. While there’s technically no rules or regulations prohibiting you from reusing boxes when shipping with USPS, there are some things you should be aware of before you try.
You Can Reuse Packaging with USPS, Although USPS Doesn’t Suggest It
Here’s the first thing to know about reusing boxes: USPS generally doesn’t recommend it. This is because packaging tends to break down and lose sturdiness as it travels, and this is especially true for envelopes. You’ll typically run into better luck with corrugated cardboard boxes, since boxes retain their shape more than mailers do. A box is also easier to keep intact when you unpack it, assuming you’re using a boxcutter or scissors to open it instead of ripping it apart like the Hulk after not eating all day.
If you’re dead set on reusing packaging, we’ve listed the main points to keep in mind below.
Double-Check that the Box is Intact and Still Strong
This is the big one. If you want to reuse your packaging, then the box needs to appear as if it were brand new, and has never been used before. If the box you plan to reuse is all torn up and lopsided, then you probably shouldn’t use it a second time. It will likely fall apart at some point during its journey to your recipient, and no one wants that to happen.
Make Sure to Get Rid of All Markings on the Box Indicating What Was Inside
The second thing to consider is whether or not the box you plan to reuse has any markings on it indicating what was once inside. If it has markings showing that it once contained any liquor, wine, beer, cosmetics or cleaning supplies, you’ll need to cover up or remove these markings entirely. Then, if the markings on your box still indicate that it contains any type of restricted, prohibited, or hazardous materials, USPS will assume those are the kinds of items you’re trying to ship. At that point, USPS may refuse the package and return it to you.
If You’re Reusing a USPS Box, You Need to Pay for the Specific Service on the Box
Last but not least: if you’re using a USPS box, you need to pay for the specific service marked on the outside of it. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time using the box, or if it’s your fifteenth. USPS expects you to pay for the designated service on any branded box. If you don’t, USPS will charge you what it would have costed to ship with that service in the first place.
For example, you can reuse a Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box…but you’ll still have to pay for Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate postage. You can learn more about paying for the specific service on USPS boxes in our guide USPS Branded Boxes: Paying for the Right Postage.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? For more information on reusing boxes properly, check out the USPS website.