Eliminating the package

A student master’s thesis at the Pratt Institute in the US, called The Disappearing Package, outlines a proposal for how product packaging might be eliminated in the future.

Packaging is the biggest contributor to the solid waste generated each year, accounting for about 30 percent of it. Designer Aaron Mickelson, interviewed for a February article in Wired, said: “On a whim, I started thinking about applying the functions of packaging to the product itself.” He was immediately struck by the green potential of the idea.
His eventual project used five household brands: Tide laundry detergent, OXO containers, Glad garbage bags, Nivea hand soap, and Twining’s tea. The project culminated in the production of physical prototypes, intended to appear just like real packages, and built by hand. Soluble inks were obtained from a small manufacturer that doesn’t yet have them in wide distribution. Other materials included paper and plastic. The paper and ink are non-toxic and can be washed down the drain.
In the article, Mickelson says that while packaging also serves an important protection and safety function, most of the time it is over-engineered in this respect. 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.”

• See www.wired.com