Wisconsin Startup Aims to Curb Cardboard Waste

Cardboard waste is becoming a major problem. Our mentality – use it once, and then dispose of it — is incredibly inefficient. Enter Box Latch, whose innovative but simple product aims to make cardboard more reusable by eliminating tape.

What do we do with the growing mounds of cardboard waste across the country, the result of a growing digital economy? Many companies point at recycling as the solution, but we at TriplePundit know that recycling is often not enough. While better than landfilling cardboard, recycling is resource- and energy-intensive. It would be far better if we could reuse things several times and only recycle them when absolutely necessary, following the principles of a waste hierarchy.

Box Latch Products, a startup from Wisconsin, created a simple tool to solve this gigantic problem.

The company’s flagship product is a simple, plastic accessory that can easily close cardboard boxes without the need for tape. It also is much less likely to damage boxes, making them easier to reuse – and saves companies a lot of money, too.

“The cost of disposing of the tape is greater than the cost of the tape itself,” Jack Wilson of Box Latch told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “On average, to tape a typical box it costs 2 to 3 cents for each company. With our product, it is less than 1 cent.”

Box Latch thus can meet that sweet middle – providing both a strong sustainability and economic argument for its product. It can help companies both save money and be better environmental stewards, and Wilson adapts his message.

“Our future goal is that we would like to convert 10 percent of boxes used once, to 10 reuses,” Wilson told the paper. While that goal may seen modest, the impact could be substantial. “If we could do that, it would reduce the need for recycling [by] 40 percent.”

For now, Box Latch isn’t focusing on the Amazons, Blue Aprons and Google Expresses of the world — or on the growing number of boxes being sent to people’s home across the country — but on the brick-and-mortar business sector.

“Our products work extremely well where there is a closed-loop system, or a way of getting the boxes back,” Wilson explained. “The problem with the Amazon shipping — the product only goes out, it does not go back.”

But this does not mean Box Latch is ignoring the problem of mounding e-commerce waste. The use of cardboard in factories, or along internal logistics systems, is likely many times greater than the number that Amazon ships out every day. While the latter is a world that needs addressing, Box Latch found that focusing on the former could allow it to have a far greater impact in a much shorter time.

Next year is a big year for the company, as it hopes to expand operations and work with a wide range of new partners. Cardboard production is still increasing, so there will definitely be plenty of space for Box Latch to disrupt the industry, and our waste management system, for the better.

Image credit: Walmart via Wikimedia Commons

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Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

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