This incredible idea might eliminate packaging waste forever

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packaging waste problem solved

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According to statistics, Americans alone throw away 70 million tons of packaging every year, that’s 140,000,000,000,000 lbs of waste! Label designer and Pratt Institute student, Aaron Mickelson, thinks he’s found the solution – packaging that disappears!

The concept is part of his masters thesis project, The Disappearing Package. Mixing his two passions, label design and environmentalism, Mickelson’s intention is to provide companies with options that will help reduce the extreme amount of waste that modern packaging designs produces every year.

Mickelson chose five household consumer items for his thesis: Tide pods, OXO pop containers, Twinings teabags, Nivea Bar soap and GLAD Trash bags. Each design was chosen because they “afford [Mickelson] a solution in every colour: red (OXO), orange (Tide), yellow (Glad), green (Twinings), and blue (NIVEA)”.

With the use of soluble inks and non-toxic paper, each product’s packaging has been redesigned so that there would be relatively little packaging left after the consumer used the product. Mickelson uses their unique way of disappearing as an insignia on the packaging itself, identifying it as his brand and also providing consumers with information as to how to disappear the packaging.


“Tear-me-up” Tide pods

The original Tide pods came in a flexible plastic bag that could be used as a reusable container (so long as the tablets lasted that is). Once the tablets were used, the plastic bag would be thrown out, creating 16g of packaging waste per bag, or 1,450 lb per truckload.

Mickelson redesigned the packaging to a sheet of perforated pods that are stitched together, with the brand and product information printed directly onto it.  Consumer’s tear off a pod as they need one, and once they use the last one, the packaging has disappeared!

tear me up tide pods


“Wash-me-off” OXO Pop containers

Currently, OXO’s reusable containers come with a glossy piece of paper with its brand and product information printed on it. Getting rid of the paper that produces 500 lbs of waste per truck, Mickelson screen-prints the information directly onto the containers using soap-soluble ink.

Therefore, when people wash their plastic containers before use (as they usually do) they also wash away the packaging!

oxo packaging disappearing


“Tear-me-up” Twinings Tea bags

Mickelson took the old packaging, which was a cardboard box wrapped in plastic that generates 2,646 lbs of waste per truckload, and redesigned it by perforated together to create an accordion-style arrangement of tea bags that resembles a book. The consumer then tears off each tea bag as their needs require, leaving on a minimal amount of packaging.



“Wash-me-away” Nivea Bar soap

Mickelson discards the idea of soap coming in a box that will inevitably be thrown away on first use, creating 3,950 lbs of waste per truckload, and opts instead for packaging that washes away in the shower instead.

The water soluble, septic safe packaging shape is designed specifically so that consumers don’t absent-mindedly attempt to open the packaging.

nivea packaging concept



“Take-me-last” GLAD Trash bags

Minimal brand and product information are printed on the “last” bag which also operates as the packaging itself. The bags can be pulled out from the centre when needed, until the last one is finally used, leaving absolutely no extra packaging.

The current packaging design uses heavy-weight paperboard boxes and generates 3,334 lbs of waste per truckload.

Glad bags packaging


Mickelson says that he understands that a lot has to happen in order to get his designs into factories, but that his main goal “was to expand the conversation on sustainable packaging”.

  • Sarah Burke

    Sarah is a graduate of the University of College Dublin. After receiving her MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, she taught High-school English and History for three years before moving to Vancouver to pursue a career in writing. In her spare time, Sarah likes to write poetry, go to music festivals and drink wine. Her favorite food is the burrito. She is an avid reader of fantasy novels, an active participant in feminist circles, and will always have an adventure planned in the foreseeable future. Interesting fact: Sarah is fluent in Irish (Gaeilge).

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