Some years ago, somewhere in the background of the packaging battle-field, the zero-waste packaging movement was seeing the light of the day. On the face of it, eliminating packaging can only be a good thing in order to stop the millions of tonnes of packaging waste going to landfill or making its way into our rivers and oceans. But, as with so many of these movements, the fanatical and short-sighted way it was promoted, made it a highly contentious concept.
It’s well-known that retailers working with the ‘bring your own packaging’ (BYOP) concept aren’t conquering the market. In general consumers don’t have an interest in refilling other than just buy a refill pack and even that concept isn’t quite successful as it should be.
At the other hand the farmers markets are becoming popular, but the consumer isn’t going there because he buys his fresh produce unpackaged, he goes there to buy fresh and at low prices (packaged or not packaged).
And of course the industry answered the packaging waste question with downsizing and light-weighing its packaging range, while another sector developed and established a high-tech recycling platform, partially decreasing the need for zero-waste packaging. Although the zero-waste movement still claims the “waste” and “unnecessary” use of resources, it’s crystal clear that the recycling industry is faithfully bringing new recovered material resources to the market. Slowly, but surely, it’s becoming a loop and a profitable one at that.
Does that mean that we haven’t to look at zero-waste initiatives seriously? The desire to eliminate packaging might be, ultimately, at odds with commercial and logistic requirements, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile to take a look at creative ideas to minimize the quantity of packaging waste, whether ending up in landfill or recycling.
We all know (I wrote about it several times) the wikifood creations, among others the Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls. But that’s not what I mean, as they still need some form of packaging to protect against contamination.
No something different I want to talk about today, as one of the creative solutions, companies have at hand, is the plantable packaging. I don’t have the packaging with seeds and plant or flowers in mind. I want to talk about whatever packaged product, which incorporates seeds and allow the packaging to be buried in the soil and disintegrate while flowers or herbs are flourishing.
In other words zero-waste can be obtained when whatever product has seeds embedded in its packaging material, which then can be planted after the product is consumed, ending up with flowers or plants and zero packaging waste.
To show that you can create a zero-waste plantable packaging with almost any product on the market, I have selected some examples, which can be used by any consumer goods (food and non-food) company.
We start with Pangea Organics, which was, probably, the very first company introducing a plantable packaging.
Pangea’s Ecocentric Packaging
Pangea’s moulded fibre box for Ecocentric body/skin-care products is the first of its kind. Pangea Organics collaborated with Seeds of Change, the largest US producer of organic seeds, to create the first ever, 100% compostable, biodegradable and plantable product packaging. It is manufactured with zero waste and created from 100% post-consumer paper board, without glues and dies.
After the product has been used, the consumer soaks the fibre box for one minute in water and plants it about 1” deep in soil, resulting in medicinal herbs, found in Pangea products, springing up.
The typical design, the biodegradable nature of the cartons and the fact that they are embedded with wildflower seeds communicate the brand values. The inclusion of the seeds is not the least bit gimmicky. It embodies the full life cycle supporting the story of the Pangea brand: coming from the earth and going back to it.
The moulded hinged fibreboard clamshell holding the body care products, is made with 100% recycled, biodegradable, compostable, post-consumer paper called Astrolite PC 100 (130-lb carton paper weight) from Monadnock, while the clamshells are moulded by UFP Technologies with zero waste, glue or dyes. This Forest Stewarship Council-certified paper undergoes chlorine-free processing and is uncoated. Colorado Blue Spruce tree seeds are embedded in the fibres of the carton sidewalls so that after being unpacked, the empty boxes can be buried to plant the seeds.
The labels detail the company’s, handcrafted, organic and cruelty-free manufacturing principles, and facts about the package as well as instructions on how to plant the seed-embedded cartons.
Disposable Food Bowl
As the consumption of fast food, snacks and ready-meals are on the rise, the packaging materials and left-overs of these meals are straining the environment like never before as often non-renewable and even non-degradable materials are being used.
Although many a fast food chain has changed its burger and similar packaging from polystyrene to more eco-friendly paperboard designs, we still look critically at the tremendous quantity of packaging waste that this sector is creating.
Michal Marko, a designer from Ružomberok, Slovakia, came up with an eco-friendly solution. The label of the biodegradable Disposable Food Bowl states: “Enjoy your food. Then put the seeds from under the label with gravel into the bowl and let it grow. After a week, plant bowl with a herb into the ground. The bowl will degrade and you can grow your own herb”.
This biodegradable food bowl has the potency to revolutionise the packaging of the fast food and related industry. Many a consumer will be attracted by “Enjoy your food, Plant the bowl into the ground, Let it degrade and the herbs will flourish”.
Bloom Everlasting Chocolate
Worldwide chocolate is a popular product, bought in all types of packaging, which is thrown away after enjoying the chocolate, while the packaging material often isn’t degradable or even recyclable.
UK Designer, Connor Davey, describes Bloom Everlasting Chocolates as the tasty gift that keeps on giving.
The seed-infused chocolate packaging that can be planted to grow the ingredient of the former chocolate, leaves no waste. Bloom chocolate would be given as an everlasting gift.
A range of different flavour chocolates is packaged in biodegradable seed infused paperboard. The mint chocolate pack when planted grows mint, the orange chocolate grows an orange plant, the rose infused chocolate grows roses, while the chilli chocolate grows a chilli plant.
Live Food Bar Packaging
Amelia Roblin, a digital designer in Toronto/Canada, created a plantable packaging for Live Food Bar in Toronto, a raw gourmet restaurant that caters to vegans and vegetarians.
Designed specifically to hold takeout veggie wraps, the paper for the adjustable sleeve is sourced from Botanical Paperworks of Manitoba and it consists of recycled paper material and embedded seeds of basil, parsley and oregano. The graphics are printed with environmentally friendly soy or vegetable-based ink.
Once the consumer has finished his food, the Live sleeve allows for growing his own herbs. He has to wet the packaging and bury it in the soil of his garden, a planter or a flower pot. Water it and give it plenty of sunlight and it will thrive.
Sustainable Tea Packaging
This prototype, designed by Daniel Stankus in Brooklyn, NY, USA, is for a 100% compostable tea packaging, made entirely from biodegradable materials, including a moulded fibre paperboard embedded with medicinal herb seeds.
The outer retail carton is made with a minimum of 85% post-consumer waste, conserving trees while also saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When the inner packaging is planted in about one foot of soil, the seeds embedded in the paperboard will germinate and new herbs can be grown and harvested.
The teabags themselves are made from PLA (polylactic acid), which is corn-based and biodegradable, while the teabag strings are made of raw cotton. The tea bags are kept fresh inside a resealable and 100% compostable metallised NatureFlex film pouch.
For this article, of course, the fact that seeds are embedded in the paperboard material of the inner packaging is of importance. The other bio-degradable items just are highlighting the possibilities of creating eco-friendly packaging.
The last, but certainly not least. We are approaching the holiday season and with it comes the idiocy to shower each other with presents. It’s obvious that presents have to be wrapped attractively, creating each year mountains of packaging waste, mostly toxic, as the used colourful inks aren’t always eco-friendly.
Don’t think this is a small problem. In 2011, the UK racked up 227,000 miles of wasted paper after the holiday season. That’s enough paper to wrap the world nine times over around the equator. And according to a study done by Stanford, if every American wrapped three presents in reused materials, the saved paper would cover 45,000 football fields.
To beat this problem UK design agency BEAF partnered with a print company and created Eden’s Plantable Wrapping Paper.
Plantable Holiday Gift Wrapping
Eden’s Paper is a line of 100% plantable wrapping paper embedded with seeds that grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. The brand is currently offering the paper in nine varieties, Sunflowers, English Wildflowers, Onions, Carrots, Tomatoes, Beetroot, Bell Peppers, Gem Lettuce and Broccoli.
The material functions just like traditional wrapping paper and is made from recycled and biodegradable tissue paper that can be planted in the ground and watered, eventually sprouting the specific vegetable.
The technology for Eden’s Paper has been around since the 1960’s. The seeds are embedded in-between several layers of very fine tissue paper.
Each layer of paper is held together through an embossed zip meaning no glues are used in the manufacture of the paper, which would be a harmful addition to the soil. The ink used in the printing process is vegetable-based.
Once the paper has been planted in the soil, the paper immediately begins to biodegrade leaving the seeds to grow into vegetables, herbs or flowers..
Germination is dependent upon temperature, but most papers planted will see germination start in 2 to 3 weeks of planting. Eden’s Paper are 100% biodegradable and promote wildlife (particularly butterflies, bees), and have no damaging impact on garden ecosystems.
So, enough food for thought. Imagine how many existing packaging can be transformed into plantable versions. And even if the consumer doesn’t wish to plant and the packaging ends up at landfill, at least we will see landfills covered with flowers and herbs. From a commercial point of view it might be that consumers are more perceptive to a brand or product, when they know that the packaging can end up in flowers.