Why is it so hard to get free empty boxes in Singapore? (and other moving tips)

If you try to get free boxes from a shop in Singapore, they will generally refuse to provide empty cardboard boxes to you. This may seem strange to people from countries where its common to get free boxes from shops.

There are three reasons for this depending on the kind of shop and situation in Singapore.

1. Closed loop supply chains

Many manufacturers now practice closed-loop distribution where they collect back their boxes / cartons, etc. Sometimes they offer discounts to the retailer for returning the materials and sometimes it’s just required.

2. Recycling

Many retailers have their own recycling programs and aren’t able to give away items that are already committed.

3. Competition

After deliveries complete, the logistics providers may take back all the extra boxes (see 1, 2 above). You aren’t the only one who wants those boxes. There are independent collectors, other movers, etc.

There are places you can try

Ask at an NTUC/Fairprice service counter and go first thing in the morning. Normally, by 12noon they won’t have boxes any more.

If the first Fairprice you ask at says ‘no’, try asking at a few different ones. Sometimes the first person you ask isn’t the right person, doesn’t know or is having a bad day. Ask at a few other shops and you’ll find someone willing to explain and help.

Or use something else

When you move house in Singapore most people use the boxes provided by the movers, purchase moving boxes from somewhere like Ikea, or just pack their stuff in bags.

I’ve had good experience with the Helping Hand. The same nonprofit runs PassItOn where you can donate any household appliances, furniture that you don’t need when you move.

You can also try selling your stuff or giving it away on Carousell. Just keep in mind that most of the people interested in your ‘free’ stuff are often resellers. So if you want to make sure it goes to someone in need, PassItOn is a better choice.