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The Future of Zero Waste Packaging

Waste-conscious consumers are signs of the times. Nowadays, it’s extremely common to see shoppers at a grocery market carrying around canvas totes rather than the thin plastic bags that cannot be recycled. Sustainability practices have grown in popularity and suppliers and retailers are beginning to respond to the trend. Some companies are making the effort to include recycled materials in their actual products, some are creating packaging with minimal or no waste at all, and there are even some retailers avoiding packaging altogether.

Packaging plays an important role in the seller-buyer relationship. The packaging draws in consumers, displays their brand image, and truthfully can be the deciding factor in the decision to purchase or not purchase the particular item. Though it’s crucial for sales, its useful life is extremely brief. Because the packaging has little to do with the actual use of the product, companies are getting smarter and limiting their material usage when it comes to packaging. Almost one-third of waste comes from packaging that ends up in the garbage almost immediately after a purchase.
While some companies have innovated within their supply chain to lessen their plastic usage by 30%, or use only biodegradable products in their packaging, a man named Aaron Mickelson designed packaging for products like Tide Pods, Glad garbage bags, Nivea soap, and Twinning’s tea bags.

Here’s what he came up with:

Tide Pods
Instead of buying the pouches in a large plastic bag, he created a “sheet” of the pods by attaching them and forming a large rectangle with the label printed directly on the dissolvable pods. Once all of the pods are used, there is no waste left over.

Glad garbage bags
Rather than putting the garbage bags inside a cardboard box, Aaron Mickelson suggests wrapping the cylinder of garbage bags in another garbage bag and printing the label on the outer garbage bag. This way, the “packaging” is just as useful as the product.

Nivea Soap
Again, rather than packaged in a cardboard box, Mickelson designed a dissolvable cover that dissolves in water.

Twinning Tea Bags
Mickelson eliminated the box and the individual wrapping of the tea bags and attached them side by side to tear off as you use them.

Aaron Mickelson’s thesis on zero waste packaging is enlightening, but there are many more creative ideas out there as well. For example, edible wrappers have been proposed to fast food companies. Can you imagine ordering a cheeseburger from your favorite drive through and being able to eat it right through the paper (edible paper) wrapper? Another proposed idea is plantable packaging. Once you’re done with the product you can plant the packaging in soil and grow a plant. A spice company called Margao is already practicing this zero waste packaging proposition.

Lastly, a more common concept are zero-packaging retail stores, mainly specialty gourmet foods or markets. The walls are lined up with dispensers of things like nuts, butters, beans, or any food item measurable by weight. The customer brings their own container, fills it, and leaves with no extra packaging. As time goes on, zero-waste packaging will become a more popular concept amongst both consumers and suppliers. Because Americans alone throw out over 140,000,000,000 pounds of packaging every year, the issue is critical.

References

Corkum, Kim. “8 Awesome Zero Waste Packaging Ideas.” Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN). N.p., 23 June 2014. Web. 03 June 2017.

“Is Zero Waste Packaging the Future?” Trayak. N.p., 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 03 June 2017

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