The Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine is at the cutting edge of innovative packaging design. They understand that packaging should last no longer than the foods they contain. Here we share some of their innovations, and discuss WHY this type of innovation is of extreme importance.
We first learned about the Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine via a post on The Dieline. The innovations are shown and described very well there and on the Tomorrow Machine website (it is worth some time). Below we will share three of them, but first we would like to address the main point of this post: Why are changes in packaging design necessary?
We first discussed the idea, and the necessity of, shortening the life of packaging with the goal of having it last no longer than it is needed to hold the contents in our post on Jonathan Ford’s Dieline Summit presentation. It is worth repeating his core message here:
Look at the nearest garbage bin and recycling bin in your home or office. They are likely full of packaging that no longer serves any purpose, though the food or drinks they contained are long gone. This packaging either ends up in:
Landfills where it may sit for centuries polluting the ground and water and giving off gasses to pollute the air.
Garbage incinerators which greatly reduce the volume of garbage, but also produce extremely toxic chemicals, such as the carcinogen dioxin, which, even with the filters and scrubbers, ends up somewhere, either the air, or in the ash in the ground where it gets into ground water. And the toxic wastes in the filters and scrubbers must be put somewhere.
Recycling centers are obviously the best of the three, however, packaging requires energy to produce and further energy to recycle, both of which increase carbon emissions.
The absurdity of a PET package.
The contents may remain fresh anywhere from a few minutes to a week or two, but the packaging, if not recycled, lasts decades; and if it is recycled, the energy used to make it and then recycle it is now lost and has contributed to carbon emissions. This is why reuse is a much better solution. (See our post on the I’m Not Plastic reusables).
Research shows that consumers are behind greater sustainability and want more options, but are disappointed that companies are not giving them these options. (See Notes 1, 2, 3 and 4 at bottom.)
1. This Smoothie package is made from a seaweed gell and water, and like the smoothie it contains must be refrigerated, and lasts only as long as the smoothie does. To drink the smoothie a straw is poked through the top. The empty unrefrigerated package shrivels up into a tiny piece of compostable material. The new and unusual texture of the package adds to the experience of the product (See point 3 on product experience in our post on Michael Hendrix’s Dieline Summit presentation.)
2. This rice package is made of biodegradable beeswax. It peels open like a fruit. The package is designed to contain dry goods, for example grains and rice.
3. This oil package is made from caramelized sugar, coated with wax. It cracks open like an egg. When the material is cracked the wax no longer protects the sugar and the package melts when it comes in contact with water.
(Below) The beeswax rice package and the hard sugar oil package biodegrade or dissolve in water after use. (See more pictures, gifs, and videos of these and other packaging such as self-opening bowls and self cleaning plates at the Tomorrow Machine website, it is well worth the time.)
The Point: This is a true example of innovative thinking. These are not the future, they exist now, and are waiting for courageous companies to finally listen to their customers and move forward. Changes of this type are necessary and will happen, whether your company is up-to-date with them or not.
Q & A: Does transitioning your company to sustainability mean lots of money on research and development of new materials and radical changes to products? No, not necessarily. There are many simple changes that are easily made with existing materials and machinery. Here is one example: Reusable personalized bottles. Produce personalized reusable drink bottles that are filled on tap at stores. The bottles are further brand marketing on the move. In the Czech Republic there is precedent for this: for over a century people have been taking their own pitchers and bottles to pubs and wine bars for beer and wine. Why not for soda, milk, juice, eggs, meat, and dry goods?
Notes: Some scholarly research articles to support the above ideas.
1.Toward a Sustainable Marketplace: Expanding Options and Benefits for Consumers (PDF)
2. Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program, Results and Recommendations (PDF)
3. Mindful consumption: a customer-centric approach to sustainability
4. The Role of Corporations in Achieving Ecological Sustainability