29 Ways to Reuse Cardboard Boxes

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Man with cardboard boxes
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

If you feel like someday you’ll be buried alive in a collapsing pile of Amazon boxes, you’re not alone. Lots of online shoppers (especially during the holiday season) end up digging out from masses of corrugated cardboard boxes or find themselves playing box Jenga in the garage.

And sure, you can reduce your online shopping or recycle those Amazon boxes through most curbside recycling programs. But for those with a zero-waste preference, the best option might be to reuse all that cardboard. Here are some things to consider before you kick cardboard boxes to the curb.

Should You Recycle or Reuse Amazon Boxes?

Empty Amazon boxes sitting on the curb with the trash on garbage day
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The American Forest & Paper Association reports that in 2021, U.S. consumers recycled 91.4% of cardboard boxes or OCC (old corrugated cardboard) produced domestically. However, it’s worth considering how many resources it takes to both create and recycle all that cardboard.

While Amazon hasn’t cornered the market on using cardboard boxes, the online retail giant:

Before you break down the dozen Amazon boxes that arrived this week, here are suggestions for putting that corrugated cardboard to good use.

1. Store, Sell or Give Away Amazon Boxes for Moving

Family moving into a new home
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It’s pretty much a rule of modern life. Someone is always in need of more moving boxes. Moving is already a stressful time, so stock up and store a few empty boxes or give them to someone in need on Facebook Marketplace.

2. Ship Your Own Stuff in Amazon Boxes

Woman opening product box
Marina Bakush / Shutterstock.com

You can reuse Amazon boxes for your own shipping needs. Before you head to the post office or local UPS location, make sure you’ve followed instructions for how to strip down and reuse a cardboard box for shipping.

  • Check the box for damage. Ensure that your box is sturdy, strong and hasn’t been cut or had the basic structure compromised.
  • Stick to standard box sizes and recommended weights. If you’re shipping with USPS, they recommend not exceeding 130 inches in total length and girth or 70 pounds.
  • Remove all barcodes and labels. The post office doesn’t mind if the Amazon logo is still visible, but any other identifying info should be removed, especially a shipping label that might confuse scanners.

3. Use Empty Amazon Boxes as Gift Boxes

Couple shopping for holiday gifts
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Some things weren’t meant to be kept under wraps. Keep a few spare cardboard boxes on hand, so you can neatly tuck away hard-to-wrap items and box them up later for gifts.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the creative world of upcycling cardboard boxes. From compost to cat condos, there’s something in an Amazon box for everyone.

4. Compost

Hand holding compost or soil
Krisana Antharith / Shutterstock.com

Carbon-rich cardboard is completely acceptable to compost, although there is some concern about whether Amazon uses biodegradable inks on their boxes. Tear the box up into small pieces and toss it in the compost bin. Remove the shipping label but keep the black tape — it’s compostable, too.

5. Garden Seedling Tray

Seedlings in a box
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While you might house your budding plants in yogurt containers or egg cartons, Amazon boxes make for great trays to organize and carry seedlings or store packets of seeds for the winter.

6. Garden Kneeler

Woman picking tomatoes in her garden
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

You could pay a pretty penny for a cushy kneeler on Amazon that’ll save your knees but get trashed in a season. Or you could be frugal and reuse an Amazon box because who doesn’t love free?

7. Weed Killer

cardboard gardening garden
NayaDadara / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve got a spot outdoors where those pesky weeds just won’t take a hint, lay a broken-down Amazon box on the ground and starve them of sunlight. Just beware that it’ll kill everything else under there, too, so steer clear of your prized flowerbeds.

8. Bird Feeder

Cardboard box bird feeder
Sonluna / Shutterstock.com

These boxy feeders are for the birds. Literally. Let the kids lend a hand fashioning upcycled bird feeders from cardboard boxes, twigs, twine, birdseed and a little nut butter.

9. Cardboard Costumes

Child in cardboard costume
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Start brainstorming, and you’ll end up with a pretty long list of fun ways cardboard can become costumes. Helmets, shields, robots, jet packs. Your kiddos will be glad you kept a few boxes handy for some rainy-day inspiration.

10. Forts

Boy playing in cardboard fort outside
Christin Lola / Shutterstock.com

The bigger the Amazon box, the more fun your kids will have making it into a fort. While large appliance boxes are great for this, you can also encourage kids to break down Amazon boxes into flat pieces of cardboard and tape them together to make walls and roofs.

11. Piñatas

cardboard pinata rainbow party
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

It’s not a party unless someone brings the piñata. If that’s not a saying, it should be. You can make your own — like this DIY popcorn box piñata — out of an old Amazon box. Just add some scissors and a little papier-mache magic.

12. Toy Storage

Baby toys
Anna Grigorjeva / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve got a set of toys with smaller pieces that keep getting lost, gather them into an Amazon toy box that you can stash safely in a closet. Think railroad sets, Legos, stuffed animal collections and more.

13. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

cardboard box made into a car
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An Amazon box is a vehicle for little imaginations. With a marker and some construction paper and scissors, you can turn boxes into cars, planes, trains or even rockets like the one in this Popular Mechanics tutorial.

14. General Arts and Crafts

Craft supplies
Ruslan Grumble / Shutterstock.com

Cardboard is a centerpiece of many art projects, so having a supply handy along with plenty of paper products is essential. From providing backup for fragile displays to making frames or shadow boxes, cardboard is an artist’s best friend.

15. Greeting Cards

Woman crafting at home
SunKids / Shutterstock.com

Corrugated cardboard might not be your first choice for creating greeting cards, but start thinking outside of the envelope. Amazon boxes can become standup examples of 3-D cards or giant cards to convey special messages.

16. Coloring or Art Supply Box

Man using an adult coloring book
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Keeping supplies organized can be a real challenge for artists and crafters. Enter a DIY art organizer or a coloring box outfitted with all your supplies, made out of an old Amazon box. You can even add dividers by inserting additional pieces of cardboard cut to size.

17. Painting Drop Cloth

Woman painting a wall
dotshock / Shutterstock.com

Art is messy work. Fortunately, Amazon boxes can double as drop cloths to save your carpet and furniture. Simply collapse or cut to make sure the mess ends up on the cardboard and not on your floor.

18. Party Decor

Making cardboard party decor
Irishasel / Shutterstock.com

Skip the pricey supplies and get the party started with some cardboard cutout decor. Think signs, letters, banners and even life-size displays. You name it, cardboard can do it. All you need is paint and a little creativity.

19. Storage Containers

Woman storing things in the garage with boxes on a shelf
RossHelen / Shutterstock.com

An easy solution for organization problems is to use your old Amazon boxes to store household items. Just remember that you don’t have to go basic with your storage boxes. Think decorated boxes that you’d be fine with keeping on display. You can paint, paper or cover boxes with fabric or contact paper to create a fun look.

20. Pantry Organization

Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Tame that pantry chaos with a few boxes designed to cut down on clutter. Stash all your baking supplies or everything you need for popcorn on movie night in one handy box that’s within easy reach.

21. Drawer Organizer

old chocolate box filled with office supplies
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Paying for drawer organizers seems silly when you have the perfect solution for DIY dividers or inserts. Cut up some cardboard boxes and make little cubbies and trays for kitchenware, clothing and even bathroom necessities.

22. Sewing Box

Close up of person sewing
NeydtStock / Shutterstock.com

Grab that glue gun because this DIY sewing box is mostly free and entirely impressive. Glue circles of corrugated cardboard together, apply paint and even fashion a circular lid with a little hardware and some ingenuity.

23. Coasters

A woman drinking water
Kateryna Onyshchuk / Shutterstock.com

If you’re tired of seeing furniture stained by water rings, grab some shipping boxes and start tracing and cutting to craft custom coasters. Many coasters are made out of cork, but flat cardboard that’s free of staples and tape shouldn’t scratch your furniture.

24. Magazine Storage

Someone flipping through a stack of magazines at the library
Steve Lovegrove / Shutterstock.com

Why pay $20 for a set of magazine storage boxes when you already have Amazon boxes you can spruce up for the same purpose? This tutorial for magazine storage utilizes USPS Priority Mail boxes, but you can also use Amazon boxes of a similar size.

25. Wall Art

crafty picture made on cardboard
OnlyZoia / Shutterstock.com

You know what they say. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. There is a huge variety of ways to use old cardboard boxes to create abstract art, geometric wall hangings, nature-inspired art, craft frames or use as backing for other art pieces.

26. Drip Pan

Young man holding a moving cardboard box
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Under the sink or in the garage, cardboard boxes can save floors, shelves and other surfaces from damage. Simply break it down and slide it under wherever you’re likely to experience a disaster — or need to protect a surface — and let the cardboard catch the drips.

27. Cat Scratcher

Beautiful Himalayan cat
Cindy Ching / Shutterstock.com

Give your cat a place to practice claw maintenance with a DIY corrugated cat scratcher. It can be as simple as stacking and gluing pieces of cardboard together or creating a more complicated design like this circular cardboard cat scratcher.

28. Dog Busy Box

Woman relaxing with a dog in her living room
evrymmnt / Shutterstock.com

Your dog is always interested in sniffing around boxes for a reason. For most dogs, it’s an instinctual foraging habit that’s built into their breed. Give them the satisfaction of a DIY dog busy box that’ll provide extra enrichment and stave off doggie boredom.

29. Cat Condo

Cat Condo
TheCats / Shutterstock.com

Last but not least, what’s better than using a cardboard box to start your own colony of cat condos? Meow doesn’t seem to cover these feline fortresses and towers fashioned entirely out of cardboard boxes with cutouts and tubes.

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