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Paper or Plastic? A Comparison of Cardboard & Plastic Boxes



Packing up your house into recycled cardboard boxes and loading everything into a big moving truck used to be the norm for moving, but things are changing. The advent and increasing use of plastic tote bins and boxes is on the rise, and there are a number of good reasons why adopting this method could prove useful when the time comes to pack for your move.

But don’t discredit old faithful cardboard moving boxes either, they too have their fair share of convenient advantages.

If you’re struggling to decide which is the most suitable type of moving box for your big day, we’ll help to uncover some of the pros and cons of each – because you’ve probably got enough on your mind already.


Let’s Begin With a Few Facts & Stats

An approximate 41% of waste found in modern day municipal landfills is comprised of cardboard and paper products. Approximately 90% of all products and goods are packed, in some way, in a cardboard box or container.

In order to produce new cardboard and paper products, trees need to be cut down – but for every ton of cardboard that is recycled or reused, about 17 trees are saved. Wouldn’t it be great to give some of those boxes a second life by reusing them for moving? On average, it takes about 50-100 cardboard boxes to pack up one conventional family home.

Cardboard boxes are readily available just about everywhere – including from many moving companies, meaning they’re a convenient and easily recycled product to work with on your moving day. They’re also extremely light, and relatively inexpensive to purchase, making your move a little thriftier, as well. Many websites like Kijiji or Craigslist also feature “free-cycled” boxes made available to people from other local moves.

Furthermore, cardboard moving boxes come in a vast array of sizes and shapes to suit different household items. They’re also a great option if you’re putting some of your things in storage.

On the downside, cardboard moving boxes can be time-consuming to assemble, adding to the time it takes to pack up your home – arguably the least enjoyable time of any move. Then when you’re all moved in, you have to de-assemble those same boxes all over again for disposal or recycling.

Cardboard boxes can only carry so much weight, as well. The weight of their contents is hugely dependent on the structural integrity of the box itself, and the strength of the taped seam on the bottom of the box. Cardboard boxes can collapse on themselves and other boxes if they’re not stacked and assembled properly.

Another downside is that cardboard containers and boxes are not very tough when it comes to impacts and stack-ability. If your moving truck comes to an abrupt stop, some boxes could fall over and damage others close to them causing damage to your belongings – it’s wise to not stack them too high. They also don’t have a great track record withstanding wet and damp conditions. Cardboard can easily become soggy and flimsy on a wet moving day.


Accessibility & Costs

While cardboard boxes are readily available, and inexpensive – the additional costs associated with their use on a moving day can be quite large. There’s tape to consider, tape guns, markers and labels that can add significantly to the cost of your move. The cost to recycle the boxes at your local landfill should also be investigated; the cost may surprise you.

On the flip side, plastic moving boxes and reusable totes can prove to be worth their weight in gold. They’re an eco-friendly alternative to conventional cardboard boxes, and easily reusable in your everyday life after you’ve moved.

Many people tend to think of plastic as not being incredibly environmentally-friendly, however, for the moving industry, plastic proves to be the greener technology because of its strength, durability, and reusability. By choosing to use an environmentally beneficial alternative to paper products, you’re helping to reduce the consumption of pulp and paper.


Space Saving & Durability

Plastic moving boxes feature very sturdy construction and can be stacked easily at height, helping you feel confident in transporting your valuable personal effects. Many feature snap-on lids.

In addition to their stack-ability, plastic bins don’t need to be assembled or broken down, vastly reducing the time it takes to prep for your move. Many people also underestimate the level of involvement that it takes to unload a fully packed moving truck – plastic moving boxes were designed for this exclusive purpose – to make loading and unloading easier. Because they’re so easy to work with, these factors can help to reduce your overall move time.

There are many plastic moving box rental companies that will also deliver the boxes to your old address, and pick them up from your new home after you’ve finished your move, making them a convenient alternative to cardboard. This eliminates the need to dispose of, or recycle the boxes, and you can feel good that they’ll not end up in a landfill later on –they’ll be reused again and again by others. Many of these rental companies also supply dolly’s specifically fitted to the plastic moving boxes they deliver, helping to make moving less physically demanding.


But like cardboard boxes, plastic totes too have their pitfalls:

Their one-size-fits-all approach means they’re not always the best solution to packing irregular shaped objects. This can render plastic moving boxes quite impractical.

The added convenience of renting the boxes from a company can also be a double-edged sword: some companies will charge additional fees if your moving day takes longer than anticipated. This adds pressure and stress to your move to unpack on a schedule. As well, due to the newness and novelty of the entire concept of renting boxes means that renting is not always a good solution for moving huge distances. Renting companies may refuse outright, or charge a larger fee for the distance needed to travel to pick up their products.

Because of their cost to purchase outright, plastic moving boxes are almost always rented, and therefore don’t necessarily lend themselves well to self-storage applications.

There’s no easy winner to the plastic vs. cardboard moving bin debate – as you can see, both have their own distinct benefits and downfalls.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive move with little or no hugely important valuables, cardboard is hands down the way to go. Cardboard is easy to find, easy to store, and for the most part, easy to recycle or reuse. Take advantage of websites like Kijiji or Craiglist to find free-cycled boxes, or even furniture stores or warehouses where you can find old discarded cardboard boxes for your move. If you’re moving your effects to a storage facility, cardboard is also a winner, its inexpensive nature means they’re not difficult to pack away.

If you’re moving your valuables to a new address across town, a plastic moving box rental will be right up your alley. The added confidence of durable transportable totes will inevitably make your move less stressful, and will give you piece of mind knowing that the boxes will be used again and again, helping to limit cardboard heading to the landfill.


Whatever your decision, our professional and dedicated movers are trained to deal with, and expertly cater your move to your exact expectations. Not sure which to use, paper or plastic? We can help: call our head office to discuss your options today at: (604) 694-7777, or toll Free at: 1 877-694-7778.


Happy Moving!

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