Products with packaging that disappears; to the leader will come the edge

by mo on February 20, 2013

I suffer almost every day over a purchase decision that will bring unwanted packaging into our home, and with it, the added responsibility of how to get rid of it. And I do mean suffer. Anyone who has made a commitment to reduce the waste they toss out each week understands. It is incredibly difficult to do this in a meaningful way.Disappearing Packaging

So, when I came across Tom Maly’s story on about designer Aaron Mickelson’s master thesis The Disappearing Package,  I was thrilled. His exploration of packaging solutions for five familiar household brands is elegant, innovative, and inspiring.

His approach is to consider how the packaging can be eliminated entirely with use. Take a look at his examples for Tide and Nivea among others.

Consider the marketing possibilities. Who would not want to buy a product and “consume” the package with the product? The first big brands that take note of Mickelson’s ideas could win big.

Of course not all products fit this idea, but even if a subset of everyday products can follow his lead, the impact could be enormous. Every year, Americans generate a lot of waste. In 2010, 250 million tons! A full 30 percent of that is packaging. Think of all those hated blister packs. Read more about municipal waste at the EPA’s site if you need convincing.

His ideas do not necessarily mean increased prices. Many of us realize we pay a HUGE premium now for packaging of everyday purchases, far more than the actual cost of the product inside in many cases. We also pay for packaging designed for retail display in a world that is, well, moving away from big box. How many times have you ordered a product on-line and it comes packaged ready to hang on a retail display.

There are so many solid waste streams that the average American cannot solve at the moment. Think baby diapers and pet waste. And perhaps all those glass beer and wine bottles. (But take a look at an innovative box for wine.)  So any effort in this direction has to be applauded. Obstacles for implementation do exist.  As reported by Maly in Wired:

“Of course, packaging also serves an important protection and safety function, but Mickelson says most of the time that stuff is over-engineered. He recognizes that some changes might be required for these solutions to make it into the logistics chain. “I have great respect for the people who ensure packages can make it from the production line to the store shelf to the consumer’s home,” he says. “Production machinery may need to be re-tooled to safely work with the proposed materials. Where fragility is a concern, reusable shipping containers may need to be used.”

Consider the sales proposition for major brands. We buy the packaging already. Won’t we be happy to buy a “green” version?








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