Every year, we throw away a ton of packaging waste (actually, over 70 million tons). It makes up the single largest percentage of trash in our landfills (beating out industrial waste, electronics, food… everything). Figures released by the EPA indicate this problem is getting worse every year.
As a package designer (and grad student—meaning I know everything and can solve every problem, naturally), I was concerned about where this trend is going. Of course, many talented designers working in the field have made great efforts over the past few years to reduce the amount of packaging that goes onto a product. However, for my Masters Thesis, I asked the question: Can we eliminate that waste entirely?
The five solutions presented by this website are my answer to that question. I realize each presents its own manufacturing or distribution challenge; however, each also presents opportunities available to package designers right now.
I wanted to start a conversation. I’d love to know what you think.
The package itself is a sheet of laundry pods stitched together, printed using soap-soluble ink. The POD plastic is, just like in the existing product, water-soluble. Consumers tear off each POD and use one-by-one. With the last POD, the package itself is gone.
PODs, instead of being stored loose, are stitched together into a perforated sheet. Product details and brand information are then printed directly onto this sheet. All inks are water-soluble, and dissolve in the wash (just like soap dyes).
The customer tears off PODs one-at-a-time as needed, simply tossing the POD directly into the wash. All parts of the packaging dissolve safely. When the last POD has been used, the package is gone. No waste to throw away.
OXO POP Containers
Brand identity, marketing material and product details are all screen-printed directly on to the surface of the container with soap-soluble inks. Everyone washes food containers before use; that same act now disappears the package.
The same information—OXO’s brand mark, the product name and details, and a depiction of what might be stored inside—is printed directly on the surface of the container. In deference to this printing technique, all graphics and text are solid, single colors.
The ink used is not water-soluble, but soap-soluble, so it washes away with soapy water. Because this product is used for food storage, it’s likely the consumer would wash it first anyway. In this process, the “label” breaks down completely and is safe both for the environment and for septic.
Twinings Tea Bags
Individual tea packets, wax-lined for freshness, are perforated together and folded up accordion style. This provides a new opportunity to expand on the marketing material present on the package, and to eliminate unnecessary waste.
HERE’S A BONUS
With the added surface area and the storybook-quality of the accordion packaging, the manufacturer has a new opportunity to provide information or a story to the consumer.
The consumer unsticks and tears off tea bags one-at-a-time, with each second bag revealing a new spread. The folder itself becomes the hanging tag. With the last tea bag, the package is eliminated.
Every solution features an insignia that both identifies it as a Disappearing Package (building brand recognition) and clearly instructs the consumer on how to disappear it.
NIVEA Bar Soap
The package is a septic-safe, water-soluble paper. Consumers take the whole package into the shower with them. When it gets wet, it dissolves, leaving no packaging behind.
The packaging seems familiar—essentially appearing as a paper box. But there are two primary differences: First, the shape, which was developed to prevent the consumer from absentmindedly tearing open the package. They shouldn’t open it because (Second) the paper is water-soluble and designed to stay on.
The substrate functions just like normal paper—it can be printed on and embossed, as in this solution—until it is exposed to water. When the consumer takes it into the shower, the non-toxic material 100% dissolves and washes down the drain.
GLAD Trash Bags
Product information and a refreshed Glad logo are printed with traditional oil-based inks on the last trash bag in the roll, which is no longer kept in a box. The last bag is the package itself, leaving no extra trash when it gets used.
In this refresh, visual elements are limited to the most important information: the brand, the style and size of the product, and the number included. This information is all printed directly on the last bag, which holds the others together, and eliminates the need for an extra layer of packaging.
Bags are pulled from the center and used, one-by-one. The label is printed on the last bag with traditional oil-based inks, so it will remain permanent until the end. This bag carries the product information, reminding the consumer what they need to get more of.