BoxCycle: A Marketplace for Cardboard Boxes

Every day, businesses and retailers are flooded with boxes containing everything from new store inventory to documents. Presented with these mountains of cardboard, most businesses simply stack them “out back” until they can be shipped to recycling services or a landfill. At the same time, many consumers find themselves paying relatively high prices for new boxes, contributing to added environmental waste in the process.

BoxCycle, a San Francisco-based startup launching this week, is looking to help connect the two parties by giving businesses a simple way to sell their boxes to anyone who will take them. To begin selling, businesses first establish their hours of availability, and then input how many boxes of each size they have from a list of predetermined choices (all prices are fixed and depend on box size). Customers visiting the site use a calendar function to set exactly what date and time they’ll be picking up their boxes, and then pay using either a credit card or PayPal (there’s a $5 penalty if you miss your appointment).

The site says that it is giving businesses a way to help the environment while getting paid for their efforts, but most businesses will probably find the monetary incentive to be minimal – common moving boxes only sell for around one dollar apiece (and the site keeps half of that). It’s possible to only allow for bulk purchases by setting a minimum order size, but most businesses will see the service as a way to get rid of bulky boxes without harming the environment, not as a new source of cash.

Most business probably wouldn’t have a problem giving away their boxes for free, but BoxCycle doesn’t seem to offer a way to do this – sellers can elect to make no profit from their sale (essentially cutting the price for buyers in half), but BoxCycle will always charge its fee, which amounts to 50% of each box’s fixed selling price.

There may well be a need for BoxCycle, but I question if businesses are really going to take the time to honor appointments to get rid of their boxes – it seems far easier to just put a listing on Craigslist offering the boxes to anyone who will take them. There are a number of alternatives to BoxCycle, including UsedCardBoardBoxes and BoxQuest.