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Why you don't always need a cardboard box - alternative packaging solutions

If the item you need to send is big, bulky, and likely to take a bashing in transit, then a good quality cardboard box is most definitely a wise choice! But as for the rest of the time, are you at risk of overdoing it a little on the cardboard front? There may indeed be more cost effective, more sustainable, and more effective alternatives for your delivery needs. For shipping out your Ebay orders or sending off your Christmas gifts, here's our guide to some smarter, greener, and potentially cheaper alternatives to cardboard boxes for getting your packages safely from A to B.

So what's wrong with a cardboard box?

Tough, lightweight and cheap, it's easy to see why cardboard is still the go-to choice for packaging. Across the EU, around 34 million tonnes of cardboard and paper packaging waste is generated each year; that's more than double the amount of plastic packaging waste created. If we can find ways of using less cardboard, by using it in a smarter way, it's going to be better for everyone from an environmental point of view. This is especially important for online sellers who are looking to build up an eco-friendly reputation. The problem with cardboard isn't to do with the material itself; it's in the way in which it's sometimes put to work. Every time we use a box that's way too big or bulky for the item we're sending, it's adding to the waste mountain. Linked to this, if you send out a needlessly large box, it can often mean paying for postage on 'dead air'. Opting for a more streamlined version can cut down significantly on bulk, thereby helping you to keep your shipping costs to a minimum. And of course, no-one enjoys a trip to the Post Office delivery centre - especially if it's to pick up an item that easily could have fitted through the letterbox if it was packaged with a little more thought! Alternatives to cardboard boxes can make delivery a lot easier - and can also mean that the recipients have less waste to deal with at the other end. With all of this in mind, let's take a closer look at some of those alternatives


This is outer packaging done the smart way. Many of the items we send out (e.g. jewellery and toys) already come in a presentation box or retail packaging. They still need an outer layer of protection before you put them in the mail. Twistwrap offers a much more efficient alternative to having them rattling around in a loose-fitting outer box. Twistrap is a close-fitting cardboard outer sleeve designed to match the dimensions of the boxed package. Because there is no dead air between the retail box and the outer packaging, it keeps the parcel size to an absolute minimum. It also means that there is no air void to fill and therefore, significantly less risk of damage. The flat pack design means that Twistwrap packaging is also very quick to assemble and takes up minimal storage space when stacked up, all without the need for additional sealing tape thanks to it's fast peel and seal strips. This is really great news if your budding ecommerce business is just starting to pick up orders and is limited for space.


If the item isn't fragile, like clothing, or if it already comes in a postal-ready retail box, a simple mailbag might fit the bill perfectly. But just be aware that consumer pressure is seriously pushing for greener alternatives to single-use plastic packaging such a polythene mailbags. In response to this we're launching a range of kraft alternatives that are 100% recyclable, biodegradable and will not end up adding to the toxic floating island of plastic that's currently plaguing our ocean's ecosystem and wildlife. In fact, reports show a third of consumers prefer eco-friendly brands and eco / socially conscious businesses tend to have a greatly improved customer loyalty. We have a greener alternative, and you can check it out here.

Eco friendly alternatives to Bubble Mailers

Got a DVD or a custom phone case to send off? For these more fragile items, our Lil envelope could be a much more efficient alternative to cardboard boxes, it's even been hailed as the 21st century answer to the bubble mailer.  The internal ghost creases and thick material provides a welcome element of buffer edge protection (we supply these exact envelopes direct to the world's largest online retailer). What's more, choose the right size envelope and you can stay within the Royal Mail limits for large letters, helping you to keep your shipping costs to a minimum.

Item specific wrapping

Item-specific packaging sends out a valuable message to the recipient. It tells them that you know how your product might be vulnerable in transit - and that you're serious about trying to keep it safe. If you are keen to build up a reputation as a safe pair of hands (as a budding eBay seller, for instance), all of this can be just the boost you need. From DVD box sets through to books, vinyl records and comics, whatever it is you're selling, there's a good chance that there's a corrugated close-fit wrapping designed to match it perfectly. All of this should help keep postage costs down, keep the items safe - and show your customers that you mean business!

So are you using the right packaging?

It might be a cardboard box or it could be a piece of smart packaging you haven't even considered yet. To discover the best solution for you, browse the full Lil Packaging range today. For more information on how you can manage your deliveries and make your packaging expenses more efficient, you can head over to our blog.

We're confident we'll have you mailing happy in no time :-)

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