Think about the last product you purchased. It probably came in a lot of excess packaging. But why does packaging have to exist? In some situations it’s necessary for hygiene purposes, certainly, but designer Aaron Mickelson believes that it’s possible to remove all traces of packaging waste from certain products.
As part of his master’s thesis at Pratt University, dubbed the Disappearing Package, Mickelson created physical prototypes of waste-free packaging solutions for five popular products—Nivea bar soap, Twining’s tea bags, Tide laundry detergent (specifically Tide PODs), OXO POP containers, and Glad garbage bags. "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," Mickelson told Wired.
In real life, Tide’s single use laundry PODs come in plastic bags. Mickelson’s solution: PODs stitched together into a perforated sheet that contains all the product information. The PODs can be torn off and put in the washing machine, where the packaging dissolves. And voila, no waste.
The Nivea soap packaging is also dissolvable. Instead of putting the soap in a heavy carton, Mickelson created a water-soluble box that acts like regular paper until it hits water, at which point it dissolves.
Glad’s existing kitchen bags come in a box that contains a roll of bags. In Mickelson’s world, the bags are sold without the box; they’re pulled out from the center one by one until only the last bag remains. All product information is printed on the last bag—the one that holds all the others together.
The only problem is that each bag is a piece of plastic waste that needs to be thrown away—no dissolving plastic bags here. Nonetheless, Mickelson has taken a huge leap in the right direction.
Dissolvable and disappearing packaging for items that go in trash bins and washing machines is probably palatable to most people, but biomedical engineer David Edwards takes the concept a step further with edible packaging for food products. Check it out here.