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On the move? 10 really easy ways to get free cardboard boxes in the UK

1 Comment    |        |    Reading time 7 minutes
Where to get cardboard boxes for free

Mention moving house and a few images will immediately spring to mind. One of them – I’m willing to bet – will be a pile of cardboard boxes.

Cardboard boxes are ideal for removals. The reasons they’re used are exactly the same as those that make them perfect for e-commerce businesses as well; they’re durable, lightweight, prevent moisture from getting at contents and also, relatively inexpensive. Cardboard boxes can be reused numerous times, but they’re also happy to sit in a loft for fifty years. Even better, at the end of their very long, very sustainable lifespan, they’re completely biodegradable. 

Are you looking for low cost cardboard boxes? Our boxes for moving house start from as low as £12 per pack.

2-3 bedroom box kit for moving home - includes 40 boxes, 2 50m rolls of tape, 2 x marker pens and 100m of 300mm wide bubble wrap

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody then, that The Packaging Club loves the humble cardboard box so much. And of course, such is our admiration, that we make a business out of selling them in all their wonderful varieties. That said, however, when it comes to moving house, we don’t think you should buy any. Not even from us! Far better (and far more environmentally friendly) to reuse and recycle by picking them up for free.

If you’re using a removal company to get to your new pad, bear in mind that most will supply you with cardboard boxes as part of their service. Even better, they’ll come and collect them for you once you’ve unpacked and pass them onto their next customers.

But if you’re not using a removal company, if you’re doing the packing, the transporting and the unloading yourself, then how can you get your hands on a supply of good quality cardboard boxes for free? It shouldn’t be too hard. Read on for our suggestions.

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1. Supermarkets

When I was growing up, it was quite usual to see a variety of cardboard boxes stacked up at the end of the check out and you could just help yourself to the one that seemed most appropriate for what you’d bought. Alas, no more, not since the rise of the bag for life in any case. However, this doesn’t mean that supermarkets don’t have any boxes. In fact, they have shedloads, arising, of course, from the fact that they have multiple deliveries numerous times a day. 

Supermarkets are a great source for free cardboard boxes
Supermarkets can be great for sourcing free cardboard boxes

It's therefore worth asking your local supermarket staff if they have any boxes you could have for free. At the end of the day, there are no company-wide policies that address this issue (as far as we can see) and it will all come down to your local store’s discretion, but both Tesco and Aldi encourage customers not to be backwards in coming forwards (and are even happy for people to grab a box instead of paying for a carrier bag or bag for life when they’re simply doing their shopping).

2. Coffee shops

Coffee shops are another place you might want to try your luck, because, like supermarkets, they have large amounts of stock delivered on a regular basis. Just make sure you specify what size of box you’re after (i.e., small, medium or large).

Get free cardboard boxes from Coffee Shops
Coffee shops get through a surprising amount of cardboard boxes

The great thing about getting cardboard boxes from a coffee shop is you can use the opportunity to order a large cappuccino and a chocolate muffin as well, or maybe one of those nice lemon tart things. So, it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

3. Off-licences

Another win-win comes from off-licences. Wine and spirits arrive in boxes which are sturdy, so they'll be in plentiful supply at off-licences and if you then take a load of their hands, it’s one bit of recycling and disposal with which they don’t have to concern themselves.

Make sure you ask for boxes with lids (or ones that have flaps that you can tape shut). And, whilst there, buy a couple of bottles with which to toast your new home. Just a suggestion.

Free cardbord boxes from Off-licenses
Off licences tend to have a high stock turnaround and use a lot of 0201 cardboard boxes

4. Other retail opportunities

Don’t forget that many other retailers get regular deliveries and asking for free cardboard boxes costs absolutely nothing apart from a minute of your time. Most retailers will have to recycle their boxes in order to get rid of the near constant stream, so it will probably be no skin off their nose to give you a pile.

Depending on what’s in your area, here are a few of the places you could try:

  • Discount stores
  • Printing and Copy Shops
  • Stationery shops
  • Bookshops
  • DIY centres
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Chemists

5. Garden centres

Garden centres are a great place to source cardboard boxes. Many still put a load out by the checkouts so that customers are able to get their plant purchases home without damaging the plant or spilling soil in their car boots.

Just make sure that the boxes haven’t been weakened by watering or damp soil. No one likes a soggy bottom and a soggy bottom on a cardboard box is a disaster.

Plants are delivered in cardboard boxes, so garden centers can be a great source of used boxes for free

6. Fast Food Joints and Restaurants

Most towns these days, small or large, will be ‘blessed’ with an area set aside for fast food restaurants and drive-thrus. I’ve put ‘blessed’ in inverted commas because I’m in two minds about it all. Junk food’s one of life’s lovely guilty pleasures, but I still peer fondly back through my rose-tinted spectacles to the days when independent shops filled the high street and we only went to MacDonald’s once a year on my brother’s birthday. However, if you’re on the scrounge for free cardboard boxes, this could be a very rich hunting ground.

7. Schools

If you work at a school, have a child at school (or know someone who does), it’s always worth asking politely at the front office as to whether they have any boxes they could give you. Schools get through an awful lot of photocopying paper, paper towels and loo roll. They use a huge amount of stationery. They also get deliveries for their kitchens and canteens. So, the chances are, a site manager would be happier giving empty boxes away rather than having to flatten them out and stack them in the green bin.

Top tip: Avoid asking at busy times (like registration or the end of the school day). You’re more likely to get a positive response if you approach the office staff when they’re not dealing with anxious parents, forgotten lunchboxes or having to print out – for the 600th time - the form for Wednesday’s netball club that so-and-so forgot again.

8. Freecycle

Freecycle is a non-profit, grass roots organisation that helps people to give stuff away and to acquire stuff for free. It aims to drastically reduce what’s put into landfill and membership is, as its name would suggest, completely free!

A quick search on Freecycle and I already found two posts offering free cardboard boxes specifically for removals for pick up within ten miles of my front door. 

9. Facebook Marketplace

As with Freecycle, searching on Facebook Marketplace takes a matter of seconds. I tried it and liked the fact that I could sort out my search by filtering the results so those nearest to my location were listed first. Just be aware that, unlike Freecycle, there are pesky sponsored posts to sift through.

10. Gumtree

Gumtree is, as many of us already know, the first site in the UK where you can post classified ads for free. Stands to reason then that if you’re having a look on Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace for free cardboard boxes, you may also want to try your luck here. It’s easy to enter your search criteria: you just type in your postcode and specify the distance you’re willing to travel on the lefthand side of the home page. I didn’t have any luck on this occasion, but from past experience, I know it’s worth checking every few days to see if something crops up.

What to do after you’ve used your cardboard boxes

Once you’ve got hold of your free cardboard boxes using one, several or all of the means we’ve suggested and once your move is done and dusted and you’ve finally unpacked, please don’t forget to do your bit for the environment and recycle your boxes. If you’re hanging onto them for storage, that’s great, but if not, try and pass them on to someone else who might need them, someone else who's relocating, for example. Perhaps your children might benefit from playing with them (check out the inspiring story of Cain, right here). Alternatively, you might just want to put the move behind you as quickly as possible and get sorted out and tidied up.

There are so many ways you can reuse a box without actually throwing it away, but when all’s said and done, if you can’t find a continued use for your moving boxes and you want them out of your hair, you can recycle them easily and painlessly. Check out this website which gives advice on all aspects of recycling as well as how to go about finding your local recycling centre.


There you have it. Ten viable ways to get your hands on cardboard boxes for nothing. They really are the best option when it comes to moving a whole variety of possessions to a new home. Relocating is expensive enough, there are a million and one associated costs, so you might as well save costs when it comes to packing and get your cardboard boxes for free.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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One comment on “On the move? 10 really easy ways to get free cardboard boxes in the UK”

  1. Good evening, I have just been told by my local garden centre that they cannot give me a box to take my purchases home! There was a pile of folded up ones. The general manager and I had a discussion about it, and I cannot believe what he told me! He has to flatten, weigh and pay for all the boxes to be recycled. I like putting plant filled boxes in the back of my car, so the soil tips into the box not the car! Is the world going mad?

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