Blogs > Sara Gutterman > March 2013 > Packaging, be gone!

Packaging, be gone!

Each year, Americans throw away over 140 billion pounds of packing. Fortunately, cities like San Francisco are aggressively tackling the problem, with a goal of becoming the country’s first zero-waste city by 2030.

Other cities, like Los Angeles, Boulder, Austin, and Telluride, are developing zero-waste plans similar to San Francisco’s and placing restrictions on packaging, embracing ‘resource recovery’ (which involves reclaiming materials that have historically been viewed as waste and transforming them into raw inputs for new products) over traditional waste management (which involves transporting waste to a landfill or incinerator.)

On a macro level, companies like Recology, a leading resource recovery company that has partnered with recycling programs in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to reclaim resources in over 110 communities, are finding ways to extract the best and highest use from packaging and materials of all kinds. According to Recology, “few things, once they are used, are actually waste material. Among such things are latex gloves, non-recyclable plastics, snack packaging and other complex materials that were not designed to be recycled. What’s more, most things are recoverable if they are not mixed together to create municipal solid waste.”

Large corporations like BASF are contributing to a packaging-free future through the development of biodegradable and compostable plastics and polymers, such as ecoflex, which apparently “is ideal for disposable packaging as it decomposes in compost within a few weeks or in soil without leaving any residues.”

On a micro level, entrepreneurs are crafting innovative strategies to tackle waste. Troubled and perplexed by the amount of resources that are used in packaging popular household goods, Pratt University student Aaron Mickelson turned his ‘The Disappearing Package’ thesis project into a new vision for the future.

Mickelson developed streamlined designs for popular consumer products like Tide detergent PODS (he eliminated the plastic container and stitched the PODS together using water-soluble materials and ink so that all parts of the packaging safely dissolve in the wash) and Twinings Tea (he jettisoned the box and perforated together the individual wax-lined tea packages into an accordion-style book—not only does this elegant design dramatically reduce waste, it also presents the manufacturer with new real estate for marketing and product messaging).

With the combination of pioneering entrepreneurs and determined corporations, I am confident that the days of overwhelming and unnecessary packaging are numbered.

Do you know of other interesting solutions for packaging minimization? Write to me at or follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

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Posted: 3/7/2013 11:17:55 AM by Mary Kestner | with 1 comments

Martin Grohman
Hi Sara,
Ears of corn. That's great packaging.
3/8/2013 2:23:40 PM

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