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Unwrapping the world

19 October 2013

Imagine walking in to a store, any store, and every product sitting on the shelves was without product packaging, wrapping or advertising.

The shelves instead had a label indicating things like ingredients, price, details about the product like 12 volt or 24 volt drill.

You wouldn’t need to break down boxes and cram them into your recycling bins, you wouldn’t have to feel guilty about throwing away the perfectly shaped styrofoam packing inserts (There must be a use for them!).

As I consider this odd reality I begin to think of things like “What about the owners manual to learn how to use it?” or “What if I have to return it to the store?” or “what about online purchases that are shipped to my door?”. I feel they are all valid concerns and are all worthy of trying to create a solution for each of them.

Let’s start with a simple concern, not having the owners manual. The simplest solution would be to whip out your phone and bring up the manufacturers website, find the model of blender you purchased and view the owners manual. That was a no brainer!

Now, what do we do if we purchased something that isn’t to our satisfaction or is broken out of the box…err…re-usable tote? Simple, you take it back in your re-usable tote. In fact, more and more stores are already accepting products without their packaging already as they know people break them down and recycle them soon after purchase.

Now for something tougher, what about online purchases that are shipped to my door? This is actually fairly simple to. Shipping companies use re-usable containers to move all product. How cool is that. Your shipping provider shows up, with your product. Opens the re-usable case, you pull the product out and inspect it, sign on the dotted line and off goes the friendly delivery person and an empty container ready to ship another blender off to a satisfied customer. Of course the containers would be made of recyclable material so when they wear out they can be turned back in to new containers.

This same model works the other way too. If you are selling your rare velvet painting on E-bay you could have the choice of dropping it off at a shipping provider where they gently place your work of art into a container that accommodates the size of the product and off it goes or for any discreet shipping needs…the shipping provider could arrive at your home with a few empty containers of different sizes, you could choose the size, place the product and off it goes or you could simply pick up a container from the shipper, pack it and drop it back off ready to be shipped.

Is this too far fetched? I don’t think it is.

Imagine the amount of paper, cardboard, styrofoam and plastic that wouldn’t be produced. How many trees would not need to be cut down to produce the typical paper shipping envelopes and boxes and just think about how your recycling box won’t be overflowing after one shopping trip to Costco. Amazing!

Now for something trickier that I’m going to throw at all of you to provide comments on.

What about grocery shopping in a world without packages? How would that work? There are so many important things that need to be displayed on the package of a loaf of bread, or a chocolate bar like the ingredients, nutritional value or allergy alerts. Those could be handled by a simple label on the store shelf, but it get’s trickier!

How do you grab a chocolate bar that has no wrapper on it, carry it up to the till and pay without worrying about who else handled it, worrying about it melting as it sits next to the oven roasted chicken you placed in your tote. You can see where I’m going with this.

I think there are improvements that can be made easily and then there are solutions that will require a lot more thought and input from many creative brains. Which is where you step in and provide your comments, thoughts or anything else you feel is worth mentioning.

Let’s get creative and reduce the amount of packaging that could end up in our environment, let’s hear what you think can be done to reduce the amount of packaging being used today.

Morgan Wadsworth

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