Organize Things With Recycled Milk Carton Boxes

Introduction: Organize Things With Recycled Milk Carton Boxes

In our home we have several places that we use to keep the small things we don't actually need, at least not on an every day (or even year :-) basis. And of course, after some time, the chaos takes over and it gets pretty hard to find the needle in those piles of things!

I was thinking about a cheap, or even free, solution to organize our chaos cabinets, drawers and work benches.

I found that milk and juice carton boxes are pretty robust and very well suited to be used as organizing boxes. And since I own a 3D printer, I created a printable add-on solution to make the boxes even stack-able.

Those organizing boxes are very easy to make, handle and clean. And they can actually even look nice. That's why we meanwhile use them to re-organize not only our chaos corners, but also in many other storage places in our kitchen, workshop and pantry!

Step 1: Sourcing Milk or Juice Cartons

Those milk or juice cartons, also known as "TetraPak" (actually a trade mark), are very common in Germany and Europe, but I guess also worldwide. They are available in different shapes and sizes.

It should be possible to use virtually any type of carton box to create our storage boxes, as long as it has a mostly block-like shape.

The only type that would not work like a charm, is the one you have to cut open to pour out the content. But those are not very common anymore, I guess. Most of them come with an outlet and a screw lid. The smaller ones sometimes come with a straw that can be poked into the boxes. Those should work as well.

The main property to look for, should be the size (and maybe the design), so that the box fits into the specific storage space you want to organize.

Enjoy the content of the carton boxes before proceeding with next step :-)

Step 2: Prepare Carton Box

For this step you need a sharp knife.

After emptying the boxes, first clean them well with warm water and some dishwashing detergent.

You might want to decide now if you want to remove the outlet and the lid from the box. This might be useful, depending on how your box is build or how you want the box to look like later. For our own boxes I never remove them anymore and use them as handles or a labeling surface instead. But if you decide to remove them, be careful not to hurt your fingers, since some outlets hide some really sharp teeth on the inside of the box (which also might be a good reason to remove them, BTW :-).

Now decide which side of the box you want to be opened up and carefully cut it open with a sharp knife in a double Y-shape as seen on the picture.

Warning: be careful not to cut yourself with the knife!

Step 3: Build the Storage Box

Since the milk and juice boxes across the globe look somewhat different everywhere, you might have to be a little creative to find the best way to modify your specific carton boxes. That's why this step can only provide a more generic, exemplary instruction of one possible modification.

For this step you need a stapler and scissors (for optional step).

I found it useful to bend the front side triangle shaped part of the carton to the outside of the box, in a way that it can be used as a labeling solution (see 1st image). If you cut it to the right length using scissors, you might be able to lock it in place under the folded section (if available) of the carton without using the stapler at all.
If that is not possible, bend the triangle shaped part to the inner or the outer side and fasten it using the stapler.

If you want to use the boxes in a stack-able configuration (3D printed parts required), you should bend a new edge to the rear triangle shaped cutout (as seen on the pictures 2 and 3) and then fasten it using the stapler. This higher rear edge of the box, now acts as a movement blocker for the box stacked on top.
If you don't plan to make the boxes stack-able, simply bend the triangle part to the inner or the outer side and fasten it using the stapler.

If you want to use the boxes in a stack-able configuration (3D printed parts required), you don't have to staple the side sections of the cutout, since it will be held in place by the 3D printed parts. If you don't plan to make the boxes stack-able, simply bend them to the inner or the outer side and fasten them using the stapler.

Step 4: Alternative Labeling (optional)

For this step you need a stapler and scissors

If you want to label your boxes, the perfect solution again depends on your specific boxes and requirements.

I experimented with multiple different versions of boxes and labels. My favorite solution so far, is the one I already described (see section "Front" in the previous step), because it works without additional materials and is easy to realize (probably not always possible, though).

All my other approaches involve the use of other cartons salvages from other milk or juice boxes, scissors and a stapler. I guess the 1st picture is pretty self explanatory on how the labels ar made and mounted. Simply cut out the label shapes you want and staple them onto the box.
Sometimes the box itself has a nice uni-color surface that can be used for labeling (also to be seen on the 1st picture).

Step 5: Splitter Solution (optional)

For this step you need a stapler and scissors
If you want to insert splitters into your boxes, the perfect solution again depends on your specific boxes and requirements.

In my case I found it handy to use the bottom of a second milk carton box as a splitter, as seen on the pictures. After cutting the second box open length wise, you need to bend its original bottom section in half and trim the ends and corners of the entire board with the scissors, so that it can be folded into the storage box (as seen on the pictures). Than simply mount it onto the inner wall using the stapler.

Again: be creative since this is for sure not only one way to do this!

Step 6: Make the Boxes Stack-able (optional)

For this step you need a 3D-Printer (or a 3D-Print-Service)

As a solution to make the boxes stack-able, I designed some guide rails that can be mounted onto the sides of the boxes. The guide rails are available in a variety of lengths at thingiverse:

Choose the size that fits best for your boxes and if required increase or decrease the length only (important!) by scaling up or down a notch on the corresponding axis in your slicer. The length of the rail should be around 80 to 90% of your boxes length!

After printing, install the rails by simply pushing them down the side of your storage box (slide-surface inside and fence-side to the outside, as seen on the pictures).
You might want to start to push down on one end and then move on pushing towards the other end. The rails sort of "bite" the edge of the carton box. So, depending on the carton type and thickness you might have to apply more or less force to properly mount them.

Please remember:
this is a recycling project! So please keep the project as green as possible and use bio-degradable printing material. Also it should be possible to print the rails without heating the print bed, since the design contains a feature that should minimize the risk of warping (the rail is splitted in multiple smaller sections to reduce resulting forces; works at least with PLA very well). You can even turn off the layer cooling fan, if you want to tweak the energy consumption a little more.

Do not use too low nozzle temperatures!

It is important to print the rails with a relatively high nozzle temperature to achieve a strong layer adhesion (check your print materials max. print temperature). If the layer adhesion is too low, the part might brake during the mounting procedure or even later.

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    3 years ago

    This is a clever upcycle!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you!


    3 years ago on Step 6

    Well done! Ich finde die Idee sehr gut. Ich selbst trinke nur Milch aus Tetra Paks (die leider nicht so schön bunt sind) und werde das demnächst ausprobieren, in der Hoffnung, den Karton richtig sauber zu bekommen, um Gerüche zu vermeiden. Ob ich die "Stapelreling" drucken werde, weiß ich noch nicht, aber die Idee ist ebenfalls toll. Alles in allem: Ein sehr gelungenes Instructable. Viel Glück im Contest; meine Stimme hast du.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Danke für das positive Feedback!
    Wenn man die TetraPaks nach dem Entleeren nicht erst lange herumstehen lässt, kann man sie mit warmen Wasser eigentlich sehr gut und gründlich reinigen. Das haben wir jetzt schon oft so gemacht und unsere Stapelboxen riechen nicht, oder wenn dann nur nach deren Inhalt :-)