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Cardboard Boxes – The Experts Guide

Written by William McAllister

There’s a lot more to picking the right cardboard box than grabbing a tape measure and “best-guessing” it. You’ve got literally hundreds of options in terms of purpose, dimensions, construction and other features, and committing to the wrong choice early on can cause a string of problems down the line. This guide is designed to help you think outside of your boxes. With a little thought and a few smart choices, you’ll always get the most out of them no matter what you’re putting into them.

Choosing the appropriate type of Cardboard Box

Cardboard box design is considerably more sophisticated than most people ever realise, and not every style will suit every purpose. Single Wall boxes, for instance, are great for transporting relatively lightweight items in a cost-effective way. If your items weigh over 10kg, though, you’ll be safer opting for a tougher Double Wall design.

Here’s a simple breakdown:

Single Wall Corrugated Material

Single Wall Despite the name, you’re still looking at a fairly complex design here. Single Wall Packing Boxes feature tough, corrugated cardboard construction with a good combination of rigid strength and low cost. For added security, you might want to add some suitably eco-friendly additional protection like kraft paper void fill.

Double Wall For heavier duty, Double Wall Cardboard Boxes are a versatile and hard-wearing style that’s ideal for either heavier items or those that simply need a little more protection. Two layers of corrugated are laminated together for added strength.

Double Wall Corrugated Material
White Postal Boxes

Postal Boxes For smaller items that still need some sturdy protection, postal boxes are your go-to option. They’re versatile, easy to assemble and readily customisable. A top choice for professional dispatch operations dealing in smaller items.

BDCM Bulk Distribution Carton Metric boxes are an especially popular choice for shipping clothing and similar items. The BDCM range comes in a variety of standard sizes, features flat-folding Single Wall construction and has a printed table for shipment details. BDCM boxes are sometimes essential when dealing with larger retailers, due to their well recognised space efficiency.

BDCM Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard Box TypeSuitable For
Single WallStorage and postage (up to 10kg).
Double WallStorage and postage (over 10kg), protection of fragile or heavier items.
Postal BoxesProtection of lightweight dispatched items.
BDCMSpace-efficient shipping of commercial items.

A Word About Cardboard Box Flute Types

When you’re talking about box construction, you’re probably going to hear the word “flute” quite a lot. With corrugated cardboard (often simply called “corrugated” to distinguish it from “cereal box” types of card), the flute refers to the actual undulating paper layer bonded between the inner and outer liners of the material.

The flute is created by passing a heated layer of paper through a set of crimping cylinders, which is then glued to the inner and outer walls. The result is a strong, cushioned cardboard material that’s still both lightweight and collapsible.

When stacked with the fluting “upright” along its width, corrugated can be extremely rigid and stackable. That said, there are several different types of fluting, graded according to the height of the corrugations in the core layer. For Single Wall boxes, each grade is referenced by a single letter.
Examples include:

For Double Wall corrugated, you’ll often find two different grades of flute being combined, to take advantage of the specific structural benefits of both. As a result, the fluting grades used for these materials will be combined.
For example:

What all this means in practice is that the type of corrugated you need will be very much determined by the items you’ll be storing, packing or transporting. A-Flute corrugated is a fairly bulky option, suitable for larger items that need the advantages of deeper cushioning and structural strength. Meanwhile, B fluting is more suitable for lighter-duty loads where protection is less of a factor. Less fragile items such as canned goods are often packed in B-flute boxes, for example.

When making your box choice, it’s worth remembering that the type of fluting you pick affects both the thickness of its walls and the amount of space between the individual corrugations (along with the number of corrugations within a given length of material). While an E-flute box is one of the lower-calibre grades at just 1.6mm, it can boast an impressive average of around 90 individual “flutes” per foot of length. This means it packs a lot of surface protection into a pretty compressed package. That’s one of the reasons it’s a popular choice for smaller mailed items. The tightly bunched E-fluting of this type of corrugated can also allow for very sharp, closely spaced folds, leading to extremely space-efficient postal packages.

A Quick Guide to FEFCO Box Codes

As long as we’re wading knee-deep into the complexities of cardboard box terminology, let’s take a look at the FEFCO coding system. Sometimes, it simply won’t be enough just to know the size of the box you need or the thickness of its walls. Not every box is designed to the same pattern or built to do the same job. It’s one thing to understand that you need a Double Wall box that can handle heavy loads and long-term stacking, but if you need a super-sturdy, two-part “telescoping” box and end up with a warehouse full of single-piece designs with flimsy tape-closed flaps, you’re out of luck.

Cardboard Box FEFCO Codes

Fortunately, the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO) has you covered with a system of categories to describe the actual style and configuration of your box, instead of just its size and the type of material it’s made from. If you’re serious about matching your packaging option to your needs, a FEFCO code will give you an invaluable, at-a-glance description of the type of box you’re buying – assuming you “speak the language”, of course.

FEFCO codes are four digits long (such as 0201 or 0203, to pick a couple of popular general-purpose examples). The first pair of digits breaks the box down into one of several different basic categories, while the second pair narrows it down to a specific pattern or design. One key piece of information you won’t find in your FEFCO code is the actual size of the box it describes, so you’ll still need to keep an eye on that yourself.

Fefco Diagram

FEFCO Codes Explained

  • 0100: corrugated rolls and sheets. Not actually boxes at all. Simply strips of fluted material for protecting things like glass bottles. Examples: 0100, 0110.
  • 0200: “slotted” boxes. Basically a single piece, glued, taped or stitched with flaps for the top and bottom. You’ll generally be taping these together. Shipped flat and ready for use. Examples: 0201, 0203.
  • 0300: “telescope” boxes with a separate outer section that completely encloses a slightly smaller inner body. Examples: 0301, 0302.
  • 0400: Generally one-piece boxes with hinged bottoms forming the sides and cover. Specific styles might feature handles, locking tabs or built-in display panels. Examples: 0409, 0411.
  • 0500: “slide-type” designs with multiple layers or sleeves that slide together to form the completed box. This category can also include sleeves designed for other storage options.
  • 0600: rigid, multi-piece designs consisting of separate body and end sections. Typically stitched together.
  • 0700: ready-glued, single-piece boxes shipped flat and ready for use.
  • 0900: “interior” designs, usually made to be partitions, liners or dividers. Various panel and compartment configurations are available, whether separate or part of an overall case design.

What Are Cardboard Boxes Made From?

So, with all this arcane talk about FEFCO, Single versus Double Wall and flute height versus flute density, it’s time to spend a moment on the actual construction materials we’re dealing with here. This is where some of the terminology confusion creeps into the corrugated conversation. What most people tend to call “corrugated cardboard” is actually simply a very sturdy type of paper. Kraft paper, to be exact.

Cardboard Box Construction

It’s made by treating wood chips with sodium hydroxide, sodium sulphide and hot water. The wood chips’ long fibres partly account for the end product’s impressive strength. It’s a surprisingly involved chemical and mechanical process, involving many stages with odd names like “impregnation”, “cooking” and “blowing” – but basically we’re talking about pulping the wood into almost pure cellulose.

At the end of the kraft process, what you get is a stronger, coarser paper than other pulping processes produce. It’s an ideal material for building hard-wearing packing boxes, and corrugated construction really makes the most of its durability and strength.

Corrugated Sheets

How to Choose and Measure your Cardboard Box

Once you understand the materials and coding system, picking the right box for your business becomes a fairly simple matter. It’s worth spending a little time considering more than just the basic properties of your choice, though. If you’re going to be dealing with a lot of boxes, there’s also the time they take to get ready for use to consider.

The popular 0201, for example, can be a sturdy and versatile selection for a wide variety of businesses. It does, however, take a little effort and extra expenditure to get the best out of it. You’ll need to find time to tape every box you’re using closed, for one thing. Similarly, if you’re going to be storing a lot of boxes and need to ensure you’re getting the best use of your space, picking a flat-packing design will probably be a smart move. The 0427, for instance, takes very little effort or time to get ready to ship out, and you won’t need to bind it up in tape. A flat-packed stack of these won’t crowd out your storage space too badly, either.

Long Thin Cardboard Box

For boxes used for shipping, another thing to look at is how easy the box is to open. Remember, the “unboxing” moment is your last opportunity to make an outstanding first impression on your customers – a fact that’s easily demonstrated by the avalanche of videos showcasing exactly that moment on YouTube.

Finally, you’ve got to be aware of the measurements you’ll need in your box. One key point to keep in mind is that you always want to think in terms of internal dimensions. That, obviously enough, is where your useable space is going to be. The internal dimensions of a box are going to be affected by the fluting of your corrugated and the number of walls you’ve chosen – and don’t forget to factor in any cushioning material you’ll be putting inside along with your items.

Cardboard Box Products

Recycling Cardboard Boxes

One of the great things about corrugated as a storage and packaging material for commercial use is that it’s pretty easy and effective to recycle. The cellulose fibres used to make corrugated can be either the “virgin” or previously recycled type. Virgin fibres tend to be used for outer packaging surfaces, where their strength and even texture can be put to best use. Recycled fibres tend to be “patchier” in appearance and less suitable for printing on, so they’re more likely to be used for the inner liner of the corrugated.

Recycled Cardboard Boxes

Embracing recyclable packaging isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good business as well. By choosing more ecologically friendly packaging for your products, you’re making a bold statement to your customers – and it’s a statement that people are increasingly watching out for.

There are actually a few factors to consider when you’re looking for an environmentally sound packaging and shipping material. Switching away from less sustainable options makes good sense, but it’s still important to think about the sheer quantity of materials you’re going through. When we’re talking about waste, controlling the amount can be every bit as critical as determining the type. Wherever possible and practical, it’s a wise move to start considering your packaging requirements right from the early product design phase. Optimising your packing and shipping material use means you’ll be devoting less space to storage and minimising your delivery costs by bringing down overall weight.

Cardboard Boxes Ready for Recycling

The Future for Cardboard Boxes

With the need to set environmental concerns right at the heart of business only getting clearer and more urgent with time, it’s a fairly safe bet that cardboard packaging’s here to stay. If anything, less eco-friendly materials are already on the way out, with the European Union looking to hit an 80% reduction in plastic bag use and other countries around the world setting targets of their own.

Unique Cardboard Box Design

Online shopping has boosted demand for cardboard packaging by a wide margin, while innovative uses for the material are cropping up everywhere. Even high-tech fields like personal electronics and video gaming are finding new ways to use corrugated in their products. Examples stretch from the popular Google Cardboard VR system to the revolutionary Nintendo Labo range of build-it-yourself kits for the Switch console. Meanwhile, outdoor festivals are erecting cardboard tents and New Zealand has unveiled a 700-seat “Cardboard Cathedral” in Christchurch to temporarily replace the original building after earthquake damage led to its demolition.

There are certainly still some questions and obstacles for cardboard innovators to answer and overcome as its popularity and importance continue to rise. For one thing, the advent of delivery drone technology poses a few key challenges. Weight is an obvious limitation, but it’s one that corrugated packaging is well equipped to handle. Beyond that, though, there may be durability issues to resolve arising from the lack of shelter a drone provides compared to, say, a delivery van. Damp cardboard boxes, naturally enough, tend to be both less secure in transit and less attractive when they arrive on your doorstep.

Nintendo Labo Cardboard Arcade Game

All that said, innovation remains the key to solving these types of problems – and the environmental and branding advantages of recyclable packaging make chasing a cardboard future more than worth the effort.

Fun Ways to “Recycle” Your Cardboard Box

When we talk about recycling, we’re almost always thinking in terms of breaking down a material and reforming it. It’s often a complicated process, and generally needs to be done on an industrial scale to be effective. With a material as versatile as cardboard, however, there’s an entirely different type of “recycling” that’s increasingly popular on a household level.

Cardboard Puzzle

What we’re really talking about here is more a process of repurposing than recycling. After all, how many times have you opened a delivery and held off from instantly ditching the humble cardboard box it arrived in because it “looks like it might be useful for something”?

If you’ve had that experience from time to time, you’re in good company. Websites and YouTube tutorials are brimming with ideas for putting old corrugated packaging to new uses. A few minutes with a craft knife and some poster paint will turn a large box into an educational shape-sorting puzzle for a toddler, for instance. If you’re even slightly adventurous, it takes surprisingly little work and ingenuity to transform corrugated packaging into anything from a sit-in spaceship to a fantasy castle.

Cardboard Kids Puzzle
Monomi Ohno Cardboard Delorean

Even grown-ups can find new life in old boxes. Suitably decorated, a corrugated box can serve as a desk tidy, a picnic basket or even a simple waste paper bin. To a cat, a box is an impregnable fortress from which it can rule its domestic domain. To the practical minded, it’s a set of drawer dividers just waiting to be built. To Japanese artist Monomi Ohno, it’s a career’s worth of fascinating raw materials.

Here are a few videos covering fun ways to recycle your old cardboard boxes. Enjoy!

Like anything else that’s worthwhile in life, a cardboard box is what you make of it.

The Ultimate Guide to Postal Packaging

Written by William McAllister

Whether you’re locking down the most efficient Royal Mail postage sizes for your business or switching to more environmentally friendly materials, the decisions you make about postal packaging matter. It’s not just a question of cost-effectiveness or convenience, either – although those are certainly serious considerations. Just as importantly, the packaging you choose for your posted items speaks volumes about your business.

A Simple Guide to Royal Mail Postal Sizes

While you’ve got a range of options for handling postage, the chances are you’re still going to be dealing with Royal Mail a lot of the time. Understanding and picking the right Royal Mail postal sizes for your business needs can be crucial, so you’ll need to make sure your packaging hits the mark.

The basic Royal Mail postal sizing rules look like this:

Letter

Maximum of 100g, 24cm x 16.5cm x 5mm.
Pretty basic stuff. The bread-and-butter of UK postage.

Large Letter

Maximum of 750G, 35.3cm x 25cm x 2.5cm.
At this band, you might be looking at larger documents, heavier items like greeting cards or even non-document items like DVDs. Depending on what you’re sending, you might be in need of more durable or protective packaging.

Small Parcel

Maximum of 2kg, 45cm x 35cm x 16cm.
At the Small Parcel level, you’re probably posting things like larger books, electronic gadgets or other similarly sized products. You need to think about protection here, whether that means padded envelopes, Jiffy bags or boxes.

Medium Parcel

Maximum of 20kg, 61cm x 46cm x 46cm.
The packaging you opt for here needs to be carefully matched to the items being sent. Standard mailing bags certainly remain an option, but it’s worth considering more durable packaging materials. Also, give some thought to how you’re packing your items. Filling out a box with “void fill” materials like packing chips or bubble wrap will go a long way toward ensuring a safe journey.

Large Parcel

Maximum of 30kg, 1.5m x a combined length and depth of 3m.
With items of this size, you’d be wise to think about double-walled, reinforced boxes and specialised void fill options. Air cushion bags and “suspension” packaging (where the item is held clear of the walls of the box in between layers of tough, non-slip film) can all be solid options, depending on your needs.

Tubes

Maximum greatest dimension under 90cm, length plus twice diameter under 104cm.
Postal tubes can be a great choice for longer or “rollable” items. Tubes are typically sturdy and durable, both due to the materials used and the natural resilience of their cylindrical shape.

How to Make Greener Packaging Choices

Eco-friendly packaging materials and design have come a long way in recent years – and it makes good business sense to push forward in a more environmentally sound direction. A healthier environment benefits everyone, naturally, and embracing recyclables in your packaging decisions is a strong message to send out with your items.

Jiffy Green Eco Padded Envelopes

One important thing to take onboard is that there’s more to ecologically friendly packaging than switching materials away from plastics. There’s also the sheer quantity of materials we’re using to consider. When it comes to waste, controlling the amount we’re producing is every bit as important as changing the type.

That doesn’t even necessarily start and end with matching the packaging to the finished product, either. In many cases, managing your packaging needs can be considered as far back as the original design phase. Optimised packaging uses less space, requires fewer packing materials and typically weighs less. Optimally packaged items obviously tend to cost less to post – but they also tend to require less storage space, both in your own premises and your postal carrier’s.

Optimal Size Cardboard Boxes

Looking at the actual materials on offer, there’s a lot more to environmentally friendly packaging than biodegradable cardboard – and it’s important to realise that choosing recyclable and biodegradable materials doesn’t mean compromising on protection. Depending on your business and specific needs, you’ve got a surprising range of sustainable packaging options available. Here are a few examples:

Padded Envelopes & Bags

Traditional bubble-lined envelopes can often be tricky to recycle (although some can certainly be reused instead of discarded), but there are other options available that offer just as much durability and protection. Envelopes using paper-fibre padding are a strong contender in terms of sturdiness.

Plastic Free Padded Envelopes

Obviously, if you’re posting something extremely brittle or susceptible to crushing damage, you’re better off looking for some less compressible packaging. However, for a wide range of posted items, a padded bag can be an extremely effective, highly sustainable selection. It’s worth noting that paper may not be the only game in town, either.

Certain types of bubble-padded “poly” envelopes are actually fully recyclable, depending on the materials used. Check the manufacturer’s listings to be sure you know what you’re buying and how easily it can be reused or recycled.


Postal Boxes & Book Packs

Book mailing boxes have become a very popular postal choice, and it’s not difficult to understand why. They offer great protection, add little to the weight of your items and are easily recycled after use. They also typically come in flat-pack form, so they’re easy to store until needed.

Eco Book Packaging

Even larger cardboard postal boxes are simple to assemble, with pre-creased folds to guide you and often featuring cleaver design features like “locking” style lids. Again, many of these boxes are sturdy enough to survive postage in good enough condition to be used more than once. Failing that, recycling generally poses no problems.


Mailing Bags

When we think about environmentally friendly packaging materials, plastic bags don’t spring readily to mind. However, if you need a serious degree of water protection for your mailed items, there are times when paper or card simply won’t be enough. As mentioned above, certain types of polythene packaging can actually be made biodegradable through use of an additive during manufacture.

Mailing Bags

Depending on what you’re posting, you might pick a clear document bag insert for a traditional envelope or a heavy-duty, fully opaque polythene mailing product with a self-sealing flap and tamper-evident features. The point is that going “green” doesn’t necessarily narrow down your options – nor does it risk compromising your commitment to quality.

The Beauty of Bespoke Packaging

If the endless rise of online “unboxing” videos demonstrates anything, it’s the undeniable fact that the experience of opening a package matters to the recipient. A posted item that’s clumsily packed in one-size (or one-style) fits-all fashion impresses no one. Worse, it can actually damage the way the contents are perceived – if not the contents themselves.

Bespoke, creative packaging puts you in control of the way your customers and mailed items meet. Ideally, you want a love-at-first-sight experience every time. That means no clumsy, difficult fumbling to get the packaging open, no worrying rattling around of the contents in transit and a strongly forged link between the ease and aesthetics of the experience and your own brand or business.

Beverages Bespoke Cardboard Box

Balancing these requirements against the more mundane, pragmatic concerns of security and protection can be tricky – which is all the more reason to go the bespoke route. Depending on your packaging supplier, there may already be easy options available to make your mark on the unboxing experience without compromising the postal practicalities.

Bespoke, made-to-measure options also come with the added benefit of reducing wasted space and materials. Properly used, these options can be powerful marketing tool in their own right. It might sound like magical thinking, but it’s a simple fact that the moment the box is opened is your final opportunity to frame the customer’s encounter with the product they’ve received.

Sportswear Bespoke Postal Box

That moment will matter whether you decide to take advantage of the opportunity it presents or not. Missing out on the chance to engage in this initial encounter with some creative packaging could be a significant waste of potential, though. Even something as simple as a welcoming message on the interior of the package can greatly affect the customer’s experience.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Simply ensuring that your creative packaging is well fitted, clearly durable enough to protect the contents and nicely presented is enough. If the unboxing process leaves the recipient knee-deep in packing chips and digging through shredded cardboard to find the product itself, a little more thought might be required. Beyond that, though, a few smart decisions made on design and presentation can go a long way toward making the right kind of impression.

Naturally, these decisions will tend to cost money – and exactly how much they’re worth will be a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. Keep in mind that even fully bespoke packaging solutions may not be as expensive in the long run as they seem at first. Once you’ve pinned down a design with your supplier you may well find the costs dropping in subsequent print runs, since the original development work has already been paid for.

Bespoke Marmite Cardboard Box

Choosing the Right Envelope

There’s a lot more to picking the right envelope than understanding the Royal Mail postage sizes available. Pocket or wallet style, expandable gusset or board backed – these can be important decisions to make, whether you’re going the bespoke route or not.

The three most popular sizes of envelope are the C4 (324mmx229mm), the C5 (162mmx229mm) and the DL (110mmx220mm). Pocket styles have their sealing flaps along a short edge, while wallet styles have theirs along the long edge. For the seals themselves, your options range from standard “lick and stick” gummed strips to peel and seal release tape and self sealing adhesive strips.

You’re basically looking at the practicalities and convenience of sealing the envelopes with these options, rather than the customer’s opening experience – which probably won’t be affected much whichever you go for. The more envelopes you’re expecting to seal in a day, the less appealing a lick and stick option is likely to sound.

Printed Do Not Bend Cardboard Envelopes

Another thing you’ll want to look at is whether or not your posted items would benefit from a windowed envelope. If you’re sending out a lot of business mail with recipients’ addresses printed on it, you could stand to save yourself a significant amount of time and cash by opting for windows instead of printing the envelopes individually. Obviously, you’ve got to match the window dimensions and position with the documents inside to make this work.

As for the envelopes themselves, you’ll always need to think hard about the condition your posted items will arrive in. Heavier items like catalogues won’t survive a postal journey nearly so well in a standard envelope than in one with an expandable gusset, for example. Obviously, you’ve got to keep the Royal Mail postage dimensions in mind when making these decisions.

ColomPac, board backed and bubble lined envelopes are also good options for protecting their contents. Board backs are great for documents that need to stay unfolded or free of creases and dog-eared corners. Padded and bubble lined envelopes are surprisingly lightweight for the impact protection they offer, but obviously won’t generally offer as much resistance to creases and bends.

If security’s a serious concern, there’s a range of specialised envelopes that can offer durable protection from tampering or burst and tear damage. These are typically used for critical items and confidential legal documents. Materials like tear-resistant Tyvek and tamper-evident polythene give you a valuable range of security options.

Colompac Rigid Envelopes

Speaking of polythene, if moisture and water damage is a worry, you’d be well advised to look into these kinds of materials. They’re lightweight and watertight – and surprisingly often are biodegradable or easily recyclable for an environmentally friendly option.

Buying the Right Book Packaging

When you’re making decisions about book packaging, there’s more to consider beyond the obvious concerns of manageable weight and appropriate durability. A packaging design built for display can be a world apart from one made for heavy-duty protection. Depending on your needs and budget, you could be looking at anything from a humble Jiffy bag to a bespoke book box with personalised designs and features.

Once again, you’ll need to keep one eye on the Royal Mail postage parcel size guide. Being generally quite regular in shape, you may not end up with a lot of excess space to pad out in any individual box, assuming it’s well matched to its contents. However, if you find yourself posting out a lot of books of varying sizes, you might be better off picking a single box type and “void filling” it where necessary.

Self Adhesive Book Wrap

Cardboard book boxes will usually arrive packed flat, which is easy on storage space but naturally means spending some time on assembly. Depending on the design you land on you might have some features to consider, like adhesive strips that avoid the hassle of individually taping boxes closed. Again, it’s worth thinking about the unboxing experience from the customer’s perspective. A tear-off strip that instantly unfolds the package can make for a much happier first encounter with the product than a box that takes a knife to open and risks damaging the contents.

Specialised “bookwrap” (or even “bukwrap”) boxes can be a great option here, with a wide range of creative design options, easy opening and minimal waste in a durable package. Bookwrap packages are arguably faster to pack than other folding box types, are specifically designed to safeguard common sizes of book and can get the very most out of the Royal Mail’s Large Letter size category.

C3 Book Wrap

Beyond cardboard boxes and bookwraps, there’s always the tried-and-tested protective envelope. The range of available Jiffy bag sizes, for example, is pretty impressive. It’s a classic, world-recognised design for a reason, with basic but reliable protection from most types of damage a book could reasonably be expected to suffer. Not as sturdy as a box or specialised bookwrap packaging, but still a solid option.

While we’re talking about damage, books absolutely hate water. Cardboard boxes and padded envelopes can go a lot way toward protecting against drops and scuffs, but tend to be pretty helpless against moisture. If that’s a worry, you don’t necessarily need to ditch the cardboard option altogether. Plastic zip wallets or simple sealable polythene carriers can offer near-total security from water, can be combined with a cardboard box option and won’t add significantly to the weight of the overall parcel.

FEFCO box codes explained

Not every cardboard box is a purpose-built mailing box, so when words like “FEFCO” are being slung around, you know someone’s taking their box packaging design seriously. FEFCO codes come from the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers, and once you learn their secret language you’ve got a one-glance idea of the type of box each code refers to.

The codes have four digits, with the first two signalling a general category of box and the second two narrowing down to a specific style. FEFCO codes don’t describe the actual size of the boxes they describe, just the type and design. Here are the basics on some of the most popular and practical styles:

0201, 0203.

“Slotted” boxes. Basically a single piece, glued, taped or stitched with flaps for the top and bottom. You’ll generally be taping these together. Shipped flat and ready for use.

0300

These are “telescope” boxes, with a separate outer section that slides over a slightly smaller inner body.

0409, 0411, 0421, 0422, 0426, 0427.

Usually one-piece designs with a hinged bottom that folds to form sides and cover. Depending on the specific design, you might find locking tabs, handles or other features built in. Folder-type boxes and trays usually consist of only one piece of board.

0914, 0933.

These are “interior” designs generally intended to be used as partitions, liners, dividers and so on. They can feature a range of panel and compartment configurations, and may be either separate or part of an overall case design.

General Packaging Advice

  • Cost Effectiveness – Yes, basic postage costs are a huge part of this calculation – but there’s more to it than that. While you’re working on keeping your package weights and dimensions within the Royal Mail small parcel size limits, think about the space you’re giving over to those boxes in storage. Are you getting the best use of your available space? Are you spending a lot of extra money filling out boxes with packing materials because you’re using a sub-optimal size or style?

  • Protection – Getting to point B is no use if you don’t get there safely. Different types of mailed items will have different safety requirements. You can shield your items and documents against most types of hazard, from tearing and impact to deliberate tampering. Even if the actual risks are small, the fact that you safeguarded your items in transit speaks volumes to a customer.

  • Sustainability – We’re all trying to live and work a little greener these days. Choosing environmentally friendly packaging doesn’t mean lowering any of your standards for presentation or protection. You’re not just building your reputation by using recyclables; you’re helping to build a better future.

  • Customer Experience – The arrival and opening of your package is your final chance to frame your customer’s first encounter with your posted item. If you’re not taking charge of that moment, you’re missing out on an enormous opportunity. Bespoke, creative packaging and simplicity of use make a powerful statement, but thoughtlessness and lack of care speak just as loudly. 
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