In the 1990s and before, the United States had a big problem with packaging waste. Think, after all, of how many packages the American household receives every day, whether it’s food packaging, appliances, or packages delivered to their door. It’s hard to imagine life without packages, and when combined with our waste habits, it’s surprising we haven’t buried ourselves in packaging. At one point it was estimated that packaging waste was one-third of all trash.

And then slowly, things started to shift. Or rather, they didn’t shift. Studies from the EPA showed that between 1994 and 2012, waste grew by 20%, less than the amount of household growth, so waste per household actually fell. In particular, packaging waste did not increase at all during that time. While myths continued to circulate that the United States is being swallowed whole by their packaging waste, the problem has actually decreased in recent years. Why? Well, there have been a number of factors, but one of the biggest influencers was increased recycling habits in American households.

Of course, the problem is not completely resolved, but it’s nice to know that we’re on the right track. The important thing is not to get too comfortable and to stay on that right track and continue to reduce packaging waste each year. Here are some ways you can repurpose your packages.

  • Wash and reuse plastic containers like butter and coffee containers. These mid-sized round containers are fit for any number of uses. You can store leftover food in them. You can use them as a place thold jewelry and knick knacks. You can make them into a jar where you store little notes of things you’re grateful for or goals and wishes. These containers will last for years, and they’re much cheaper than buying new from the store.
  • Save your boxes and bags for Christmas. Come Christmas, you’ll probably have plenty of presents to wrap. Be prepared by saving your cardboard boxes and your old bags from previous holidays to store gifts in. This is a great way to reuse your packages, and it also keeps your loved ones from guessing their present before the time comes to open it.
  • Make a cardboard cat house. If you have a feline friend, you know how much they love to claim cardboard boxes as their own. An excellent use for your old cardboard boxes is to make something for them. You can cut a hole into a box to serve as a door, toss a few of their favorite toys in there, and you have home sweet home for your kitty. If they’re more of a climber, you can stack boxes on top of each other for an affordable cat tree or castle.

And of course, when reuse fails or you run out of space, you can recycle. BV Trash Valet & Recycling includes a complimentary recycling service to those outside of Bryan-College Station city limits and collects cardboards as well as plastics 1-7. By recycling, the materials can be sent back to manufacturers and reused, so that each year, less and less packages end up in waste deposit sites. Contact BV Trash Valet & Recycling about getting your own weekly recycling service.