Fast Company

eBay's Shtick in a Box: Reusable Shipping Container Is Innovation Expo-Winning Idea

eBay Box

EBay is perhaps the ultimate online destination for used goods, so it only makes sense that the site is taking its hand-me-down sensibilities a step further with the eBay Box: a shipping container designed to be sent from sellers to buyers and back until the container becomes a soggy heap of post-recycled mud. The box, which is made out of 100% FSC-certified material, features water-based inks and requires minimal tape to close.

The box idea was the grand prize winner at eBay's annual Innovation Expo, a celebration of creative ideas from eBay employees. Designed for "simple green shipping," eBay believes that a single box reused five times could save nearly 4,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water, and conserve enough energy to juice up 49 homes for a year.

EBay will send out a pilot run of 100,000 boxes in October to all sellers who request them. Recipients can log on to a special website to report on the status of their boxes (and track them as they move from place to place), and after a few months, eBay will evaluate the program and figure out how to proceed.

eBay Box

We love the idea, but have one little concern: bedbugs. The little critters are becoming an increasingly large problem in the U.S., and sending nook and cranny-filled boxes from house to house seems like an easy way to spread bedbugs far and fast. Let's hope we're wrong--this is an idea that deserves expedited delivery.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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  • Itsjust Myopinion

    Oh my gosh, what a brilliant idea! I guess I'll go throw away all the CARDBOARD BOXES i save from other mailings to re-use over and over, and go buy a bunch of these.

  • Brooke B Farrell

    I've always thought that the major logistics providers like FedEx and UPS should get into this issue more aggressively. They have reverse logistics capabilities to bring boxes back for reuse or recycling.

    Either way, kudos for eBay for giving this a try. I hope it works famously!

    @BrookeBF from @RecycleMatch

  • ken l

    i don't think this increases the bedbug risk that much as they're a concern in shipping in general. if they're in packages - even newly packed ones - then they're likely to spread to other packages in the system. for example, mattress delivery firms are a suspected source of bedbug infestation since they usually haul old mattresses away in the same trucks as they're delivering new ones in.