Disappearing Packaging

With landfill sites overflowing, and an ever-increasing focus on people recycling and reusing materials we still have a lot of waste thrown away.  Even recently the UK government’s waste advisor Wrap announced that retailers were failing to meet packaging waste pledges, with food, drink, and packaging waste in the UK supply chain totalling about 6.6m tonnes a year, and costing £5bn!

I’ve posted on the topic of packaging before with the very clever idea of Universal Packaging and everyone’s favourite guilty culprit Easter Eggs, but a quick search online reveals websites and entire Flickr groups dedicated to absurdly packaged items.

Do headphones necessarily need large vacuum-formed plastic casing stapled onto a cardboard backing, or does Amazon need to use such large boxes for small individual items?

The worst offender I have come across is probably this.

nothing

That’s right, nothing.  Just packaging.  Packaging for NOTHING!  It pains me as a designer that someone actually came up with this, with developers and retailers then thinking it was a good enough idea to manufacture it and sell it on the high street to unsuspecting customers.

A lot of this waste is not necessarily the fault of the consumer, I definitely think that more could be done by designers at the packaging development stage to think and act creatively about how products and goods are housed.  Many companies are starting to address this, albeit driven by costs of materials in packaging affecting their profits rather than environmental factors, however many products are still over-packaged.

Whilst reducing waste is a step in the right direction, designer Aaron Mickelson is striving to eliminate waste entirely.  The idea is that by designing packaging that is 100% functional to the product itself, it can very simply ‘disappear’  by the time you have finished (or even started) using it.

A few of my favourite ideas:

Nivea Bar Soap (or any brand of bar soap for that matter)
Replacing the heavy paper carton that is useless as soon as the soap bar is removed, the disappearing package is a septic-safe, water-soluble paper.

Nivea1
You take the whole package into the shower and once wet it dissolves leaving nothing behind.

Nivea2

(reminds me of something that Creative Review did a few years ago)

GLAD Trash Bags (again, applicable to most other brands too)
Instead of the heavy paperboard box, the packaging becomes one of the bags itself.  Very clever.

GLAD1
The necessary information is printed directly onto the last bag, which, in turn, holds the entire roll together.

GLAD2

The original packaging doubled (albeit very poorly) as the liner dispenser, this is improved upon here as bags are pulled out from the centre of the roll until just the final bag remains.

Twinnings Tea Bags
Traditionally tea bags come individually wrapped and stacked in a cardboard box, which is ultimately discarded.  The solution is to stitch them together with inpermanent glue into a self-standing brick (it is admitted that with almost all food goods that packaging is near impossible to remove entirely).

Twinnings1

Twinnings2

Each tea bag tears off with the folder becoming the hanging tag.  As a bonus this idea actually increases the available print area to provide information and graphics as the product is used.

Twinnings3

More great ideas on The Disappearing Package.

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8 Responses to “Disappearing Packaging”


  1. 1 belovedmusephotography April 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I love smart packaging. Call me a nerd, but there is something really beautiful about smart packaging design. Brilliant post!

    • 2 inspirationalgeek April 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      I know, very clever design! I think what’s so great is that it’s all relatable, poor packaging is something we come across everyday and this highlights how being a bit more creative can work towards eliminating it.

  2. 3 Sandeep Goyal April 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    That is really a clever and innovative design and I hope everyone should come up with new and attractive design.

  3. 4 Gabriel Catalano - human being | #INperfeccion® April 11, 2013 at 3:38 am

    Reblogged this on gabriel catalano and commented:
    That’s right, nothing. Just packaging. Packaging for NOTHING! It pains me as a designer that someone actually came up with this, with developers and retailers then thinking it was a good enough idea to manufacture it and sell it on the high street to unsuspecting customers.

    A lot of this waste is not necessarily the fault of the consumer, I definitely think that more could be done by designers at the packaging development stage to think and act creatively about how products and goods are housed. Many companies are starting to address this, albeit driven by costs of materials in packaging affecting their profits rather than environmental factors, however many products are still over-packaged.

    Whilst reducing waste is a step in the right direction, designer Aaron Mickelson is striving to eliminate waste entirely. The idea is that by designing packaging that is 100% functional to the product itself, it can very simply ‘disappear’ by the time you have finished (or even started) using it.

  4. 5 ux conferences 2013 April 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  5. 6 Chhavi-Packaging Connections April 16, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Not sure how fast Nivea outer pack will be dissolved under shower but yes, the second example for trash bags is really superb suiting perfectly to the “no waste” or “disappearing packaging” funda

  6. 7 howcan1.com April 28, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Asking questions are in fact fastidious thing if you are not
    understanding something totally, except this paragraph provides good understanding even.

  7. 8 www.howtohq.co.uk/how-to-find-the-right-web-designer-for-you May 3, 2013 at 2:53 am

    Thanks for the good writeup. It actually used to be a entertainment
    account it. Look complex to more introduced agreeable from you!

    By the way, how could we keep in touch?


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