Recyclable, commercial packing material

Packing material is part of a vicious cycle. No matter how much holiday shopping and shipping my household does, the supply of bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts stashed in our garage just keeps replenishing. Hate to throw it away, but can’t toss it in the recycle bin either. ExpandOS, on the other hand, are 100% recyclable. Essentially small cardboard pyramids — made from 30% recyclable paper — the shapes are engineered to fit together to create a stable environment for whatever’s being shipped. As the picture above shows, each pyramid has ridges along its edges and holes in the face of each side, allowing a box of these suckers to lock together into a lattice-like structure.

ExpandOS are intended for commercial use, but I’m posting this in the hope that more businesses will give it a shot.

They way it works is you a purchase large flat sheets of specially-cut cardboard (made from 30% recycled paper). Each sheet gets fed into a special machine that separates and crimps small strips and spits them out in their folded, triangular form. You lease an “Expander” machine (pictured below, note: there are various size units). The machine is free to use if you order four or more pallets of sheets per month. If you order less than two pallets per month, you pay $300 for the machine. One pallet = $1800 = 16,660 sheets. Depending on the size of an order, the cost supposedly breaks down to about $1.50 – $1.80/cubic foot.

I discovered ExpandOS when my wife ordered a piece of pottery from Heath Ceramics in Sausalito. When I emailed Heath, a rep for the company told me they’ve been using ExpandOS for a year with a very low breakage rate. They say they’ve eliminated all peanuts, bubble wrap, foam inserts and pillows, and that they’re budget for packing materials is roughly the same as it was before (if not reduced). Better yet, their packing time has dropped “dramatically.” When they ship multiple items in one package, all they do is place a cardboard sheet between items in a stack, tape them together and surround them with ExpandOS.

-- Steven Leckart 08/15/08

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