Green work #5: Reuse Costco produce tray to organize warehouse

Over the years, I have asked a few business owners how much they usually spend on storing racks and bins for their warehouses. As I expected, the costs ranged from a few hundred bucks to thousands!  If you aren’t quite ready to spend this much money and time,  you can get your racks and bins set up in just a few minutes; and best yet, it costs absolutely NOTHING!

I came across some sturdy grocery boxes at Costco, and  realized  that these boxes would serve as perfect storage bins for many small businesses.  Here are a few things I particularly like about these boxes:

1. Since these boxes have open end design, the space between 2 stacked bins allows you to check the contents of each bin, as well as reach the products you need to grab, without having to remove surrounding bins. What I do sometimes is cut off a small portion of the box to get an even bigger “window.” (See 1st image)

2. You can stack up as many bins as you like, since they fit right over each other. Yep, building your own rack couldn’t be easier!

3. Corrugated boxes are very sturdy, many can hold up to 20 lbs.

4. Most boxes are made from recycled materials and can, of course, be recycled as well. By reusing these boxes, you know you’ll be helping the environment at the same time.

5. If you need more bins, just make a trip to your local grocery store. They almost never run out of stock!

Here are some tips: Make sure to pick CLEAN boxes, because you don’t want your merchandise smelling like garlic! Plan ahead by measuring the dimensions of your shelves and checking the size and quantity of your products. You don’t have to bring in hundreds of boxes in just one trip; but keep in mind that there are a variety of sizes and shapes to choose from, and depending on availability, you may not be able to get the same sized boxes each time. And finally, to make your life easier, print out stickers with the products’ SKU numbers and label the outsides of each box for easy reference.

I hope you found this post helpful. Enjoy your new convenient, super inexpensive, and eco-friendly racks and bins!

grocery store box for shelving


Hello everyone!

My name is Vivian Zhang, and I will be a guest blogger for the EchoMerx website from now on! Let me tell you a little about myself…

I’m 18 years old, a freshman undergraduate Economics major at University of California, San Diego. I was born in China and moved to the Bay Area, California, when I was in 2nd grade. In my spare time, I like to play tennis, hang out with friends, play the guitar and piano, read, write, draw, and shop!

Online shopping has become amazingly convenient in the past few years, and you can bet I’m taking advantage of it. EchoMerx is just one of the many websites that I visit often to purchase items either for myself or for friends and family as gifts. I decided to start blogging for EchoMerx, not only because blogging is a hobby of mine, but also because I love their products!

I’d love to hear from readers! My email is viviansk8s@gmail, and you can find me on facebook and twitter. I’ll be updating here about twice weekly, and I look forward to (hopefully) writing many interesting entries for you all!

This is me, Vivian 🙂 In my dorm room at UCSD!

Self-Made Peanut Bag for Packing

Packing peanuts, sometimes called packing popcorn, are loose-fill packing materials, usually made out of expanded polystyrene foam. In the early days, peanuts were made of styrofoam and could easily be crumbled and broken into tiny pieces, or blown away. So most companies don’t recycle them.

However, some companies do recycle these peanuts and put them back to good use. At Echomerx, we recycle packing peanuts of all grades. We’ve come up with a simple way to pack the peanuts using recycled anti-static shielding bags, commonly found here in Silicon Valley, so the peanuts can be re-used easily.

All it takes are some used plastic poly bags, and a bag sealer. Our anti-static shielding bags were donated to us by a neighbor company when they moved out of the complex. These bags are very durable, and they also look nice (they’re made with a shimmery, metallic plastic). This makes them the perfect tool to use when packing boxes.

Step 1. Fill the anti-static shielding bag with packing peanuts. When you pack them, leave at least a 1″ space near the top so the bag can be sealed. To be more economical with your packing peanuts, fill about 1/5 of the space inside the bag with air.

Anti-static shielding bags can be used to protect electronics from ESD (electronic static discharge) damage. It’s an absolute must-have for those high-tech manufacturers in the Silicon Valley, because they handle so many ESD-sensitive materials. These bags are manufactured by depositing a thin metal coating, such as aluminum, over an anti-static polyester film substrate. The metallized layer protects the devices inside the bag from electrostatic fields, while the insulated layers prevent direct contact with potential ESD hazards.

Step 2. Seal the bags using a bag sealer. Depending on the thickness and materials of your poly bag, adjust the settings on the bag sealer. The perfect setting will seal the bag without overheating it, and it will leave a smooth seamline of about 1/8″ wide where the bag is sealed. Overheating can cause the bag to not be completely airtight, and this will weaken the packing.

Many simple bag sealers come with different settings. To test the strength of the seal, pull the flaps apart with a reasonable amount of force, and see if the sealing comes apart. Sealers work with localized heat to bond the two layers of plastic together, and is a very safe way to close these bags.

Step 3. After sealing, check the sealed edge; if the seal is perfect, these bags should be able to serve the same purpose as airbags. If you don’t have these anti-static shielding bags around, you can also use some regular poly bags instead. However, make sure to dial down the settings of the bag sealer to avoid overheating.

These three steps are extremely easy to follow. By using these packing peanuts, the recipients of your packaging can also follow your lead by re-using them again. It’s a wonderful way of reducing waste and helping to save the environment!

At the time of this post, Mercury News just published the article, “San Bruno polystyrene ban takes effect today, business owners unhappy.” Here is an excerpt from the article.

“The council took aim at Styrofoam because it ends up as litter and isn’t recycled by San Bruno’s waste hauler, Recology,” said city official Jim Shannon. A 2009 fact sheet compiled by national advocacy group Clean Water Action says polystyrene foam breaks into smaller pieces when exposed to the elements. Styrene, which is used to make polystyrene, increases the risk of leukemia and lymphoma, according to the group.”