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US designer invents ‘disappearing’ packs

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US designer invents ‘disappearing’ packs

March 18
11:54 2013
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Designer Aaron Mickelson has invented packaging that ‘disappears’ in order to prevent waste

Mickelson is a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute of New York and has been working on a concept called ‘The disappearing package’, in which he demonstrates how, with a simple re-design, much of a package can be minimised or eliminated completely.

Describing his concept on his website, when he was a student, Mickelson said: “Every year, we throw away a tonne of packaging waste (actually, over 70 million tonnes). 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?”

Disappearing act

His proposal hinges on taking advantage of how a product is used in order to cut down on packaging. For instance, a bar of soap, which dissolves in water, can instead be encased in water-soluble plastic that will disintegrate in the shower.

Mickelson has tested this approach on five common products, which include household goods such as Nivea soap, Tide laundry detergent, Twining’s tea and Glad rubbish bags. He has come up with waste-reducing prototypes for each product.

“I spent the largest amount of my research phase on finding the materials and processes that would make my idea a reality,” Mickelson told Wired.com. “The soluble inks were sourced from a small manufacturer that doesn’t yet have them in wide distribution, while the paper and plastic were more readily available. The paper and ink are non-toxic and can be safely washed down the drain. The plastic is, err, plastic — but at least it’s not plastic in a box.”

Mickelson added: “I wanted people to see products and packages they have encountered countless times in a completely different way,” Mickelson said. “I also have to admit that I picked these five brands because they afforded me a solution in every colour: red (Oxo), orange (Tide), yellow (Glad), green (Twinings), and blue (Nivea).”

‘Great respect’

He explained to Wired.com that he had “great respect” for people who ensure packages can make it from the production line to the store shelf to the consumer’s home.

He added: “Production machinery may need to be re-tooled to safely work with the proposed materials. Where fragility is a concern, re-usable shipping containers may need to be used.

“In any case, these designs are concepts. My goal with the disappearing package was to expand the conversation on sustainable packaging. I hope, at the end of the day, I have shown that sustainability can still be beautiful. I leave that up to my audience to decide.”


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