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Designer invents packaging that 'disappears'

Posting in Design

Though excessive at times, packaging isn't going away. It protects and beautifies the presentation of products, giving consumers the assurance of untampered quality. And to the dismay of environmentalists, much of it still sticks around in landfills after having fulfilled this narrow purpose.

Designer Aaron Mickelson, a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York, thinks that this is one area of life where there doesn't necessarily need to be a trade-off. To prove it, he's been working on a concept called "The Disappearing Package," in which he demonstrates how, with a simple re-design, much of this leftover rubbish can be with minimized, and in some cases eliminated completely. 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 simply disintegrates in the shower.

Mickelson has tested this approach on five common products, which include household goods such as Tide laundry detergent, Glad garbage bags and Twining’s tea. He chose these items based on their ubiquitousness and the fact that they would allow him to try the method in every possible color. So far, he's come up with trash-reducing prototypes for each and has been focused on refining

“I spent the largest amount of my research phase on finding the materials and processes that would make my idea a reality,” he told Wired. 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.

Though he understands that current materials aren't enough to eliminate packaging completely, the project has shown that by simply going outside-the-box, you'll need a whole lot less of it.

(Image Credit: Aaron Mickelson)

Designing the future:

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— By on March 24, 2013, 9:23 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure