The Humble Cardboard Box.

Some of you may remember the days when purchased groceries could be taken home in used cardboard boxes being discarded by the store? This was before the days of flimsy plastic and reusable grocery bags.
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Some of you may remember the days when purchased groceries could be taken home in used cardboard boxes being discarded by the store? This was before the days of flimsy plastic and reusable grocery bags. I think Bunnings had a similar setup until a couple of years ago?  I recall as a kid going to the grocery store where discarded cartons could be selected for packing mum’s purchased items. It was fun rummaging through the pile of used cardboard boxes to select the strongest and sturdiest. If you chose carefully the boxes could be later commandeered for constructing cubbies, toy castles, cars, airplanes, helicopters or any number of creations.

The first commercial cardboard box was produced in 1817. Corrugated cardboard was invented in England back in the mid 19th century, and patented in 1856. Prefabricated sheets of cardboard (to fold into boxes) was discovered by accident in 1871 when a paper cutting machine malfunctioned.

Cardboard is made of flimsy paper yet can be very useful and stand up to a lot of pressure and abuse!  Corrugated or fluted cardboard, as it is sometimes called, changes flimsy sheets of paper into a sturdy light weight material that withstands much greater loads than paper alone: up to 1000 times stronger just by a simple process of glueing two sheets of paper to a third piece that is fluted or corrugated. This is helpful when you need to store and manually transport numerous items of different shapes and sizes.


Did you know that cardboard is a vital element of Prevention of Blindness and MSM projects? Without cardboard we would not have these lightweight, durable, sturdy containers for the medical and dental supplies and equipment. For the Eye Care and Medical teams we have found boxes used by the Baxter medical supply company to be most handy. Their size and construction make them practical and resilient: not too big, not too small, not too heavy, but just right.

The poor boxes get fairly rough treatment on tour. Into these boxes goes medications, equipment, and other gear necessary for the team. They are thrown, hauled, carried, stacked, buffeted, and carted on and off Chimere, in the bulker-bag to and from dinghy, on and off dry land, over water, to the clinics and back again. But they never seem to mind or complain. At least, I’ve never heard one complain. The same cannot always be said about the owners!

“Baxter boxes”, as we call them, are readily available in most hospitals where they are usually discarded and sent for recycling.  So I went to the hospital and asked the guys down in the supply/ stores department.
“Can I please have a few empty Baxter boxes?”
“Why not?”
“Sorry we don’t purchase their products. We purchase the Fresenius company product.”
I was about to say ‘But you cannot have an MSM tour without Baxter boxes!’ Instead I asked: “Can you show me the boxes?” Fresenius’ boxes are slightly larger and not quite as strong as Baxter boxes, but “I’ll take them”, I replied. Sadly we can now report that Fresenius boxes are nowhere near as sturdy as the good ol’ Baxter box. You see some boxes have greater strength of character than others. Some appear to buckle under pressure.

People are like flimsy sheets of paper: we are all made of fragile materials. But in the hands of the right Person we can be changed to something of sturdy design, able to withstand pressures, and be thrown about without breaking. Some provide joy to little kids, others of great use to higher purposes. So when next you carry a humble cardboard box remember it started out as three flimsy sheets of paper.

Off Duty Cub-Reporter


2 thoughts on “The Humble Cardboard Box.”

  1. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for giving the website to jessy & I.
    the pictures look great and the people all look healthy.
    Hoping to see you again sometimes in the future. Email us if you’re in for your next trip to Vanuatu.

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