I made my first shipment as a seller on ebay using the new ebay reusable box as part of their Green Team reusable box pilot program. I shipped two items yesterday in the new ebay reusable boxes and after having the chance to use them firsthand I thought I'd offer my impressions.
The boxes I received as part of the program came from Lepages 2000 Inc. and were stamped Made in Canada by Atlantic Packaging Products. Lepages 2000 makes a number of boxes and shipping products sold by the USPS.
Each of the new ebay boxes has a sticker on it with a unique tracking number. People who receive the box can go to http://thebox.ebay.com and enter the tracking number to see where the box has been.
What I liked about the box
The ebay box is well made and easy to construct and its design requires little additional tape to secure. The box is durable double walled in some parts - this is both a pro and a con - I'll explain. I like how the box is not branded with a specific shipper. It can be used without a problem at USPS, UPS, FedEx etc. That is a good thing.
I liked how the design of the box encourages reuse. There are helpful instructions and suggestions and also a neat space on the inside of the box where shippers can leave notes about where the box has been.
What I didn't like about the box
Unfortunately my dislikes are going to out number my likes on this particular item. While the box is well made its finish is not mailing or tape friendly. I found printed mailing labels did not stick well to the surface. Also while its construction requires little tape - the tape also doesn't stick very well to the surface - actually it easily comes off. As you can see from the photo I shot I had to use additional tape to affix the already adhesive backed shipping label.
In terms of the durability of the box - it seems very good however as a result its also heavy. In fact on one item I shipped the box alone added enough weight to put the shipping cost into the next level on USPS Priority Mail. Those who ship Priority Mail know when you are over by 1 ounce you're charged for the full pound. In the first two items I shipped in these boxes one was sent Priority Mail and one Parcel Post.
I think ebay is doing a good thing with its reusable box pilot program however I'm not sure the way they are doing it is the best overall if the goal is to make the whole ebay experience more sustainable. As an ebay buyer/seller since 1998 I can tell you reuse of shipping materials is already common practice in my house.
So from my perspective the creation of a specific box designed to be reused doesn't seem necessary. I think the company could do a lot more to educate and encourage users to reuse existing shipping materials without having to launch a whole new box to do it. In addition ebay has been working with the USPS for years offering co-branded shipping boxes to sellers for free. Several years ago the USPS obtained Cradle to Cradle certification for its shipping boxes. Frankly I think ebay could work with the USPS to further enhance the sustainability of their boxes and the entire shipping process from start to finish. Part of the Cradle to Cradle certification focused on the re-usability of the shipping boxes and improving their design to foster increased re-usability.
ebay can do so much more to encourage sustainability among its buyers/sellers. The company can use its vast network to educate users on the importance of reuse, sustainable packing materials, best environmental shipping methods etc etc. Ebay could adopt a tracking program similar to what they use now on the new ebay boxes. The company could offer unique tracking numbers which could be applied to shipping boxes through their already available shipping label generaetion process through your ebay account. Each person who generates a shipping label through their ebay account in the future could enter that box tracking number from the previous label and receive a shipping discount or something to that effect.
Read more about USPS Cradle to Cradle process from our piece in December 2008.