New York-based designer Aaron Mickelson has developed a packaging design concept he calls “The Disappearing Package,” complete with a series of working prototypes that illustrate how packaging waste might be eliminated by letting the product itself be the packaging. Mickelson developed the “Disappearing Package” concept as his master's thesis at Pratt Institute. For his project, he developed innovative methods for eliminating the packages that wrap five well-known household brands: Tide PODS laundry detergent, OXO containers, Twinings Tea Bags, Nivea Bar Soap, and Glad Trash Bags.
In the case of each product, Mickelson sought out a method to eliminate the package altogether, producing a no-waste packaging solution that is still aesthetically pleasing. In the case of Glad trash bags, the bags are packaged in a roll, with the label printed on the outside bag. The user pulls each bag out from the center, until the only one remaining is the outside printed bag. In the case of Nivea soap, the package is made from water-soluble, septic-safe paper that just dissolves and washes away when you take it into the shower.
In an email, Mickelson tells me that so far none of the brands included in his project have reached out to him, but he says, “I definitely think companies would see the value in reducing their packaging impact if their consumers let them know it’s something they wanted.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that containers and packaging account for 30.3 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the U.S. – that’s a total of 38.94 million tons yearly, and the largest single category in the total waste stream. It’s no wonder that “sustainable packaging” has emerged as an important area for green innovation in industry. Mickelson has been freelancing as a designer since graduating from Pratt in December and hopes to join a group practice in the near future. He tells me he plans to continue focusing on packaging and says, “I hope to bring the kind of thinking I developed in my thesis forward with me wherever I go.”
Photos courtesy of Aaron Mickelson.