Any Amazon junkie manages a constant stream of cardboard boxes. Reusable pouches could work so much better, but how do you manage the logistics of actually making them resuable?
RePack, by Royal College of Art graduate Yu-Chang Chou, is a reusable envelope, modeled after sports padding to be reused up to 200 times. The bag itself is a heavy duty polyester fabric, closed with a zipper, and sealed with a single scrap of tamper-resistant tape. Inside, there lives a chestplate of poron armor--the same energy-absorbing material found in football helmets--which the sender velcro-wraps around the object they’d like to protect.
Chou tells us that he tried many other designs and cushioning materials--inflatable bags, modular padding, and bumpers, crafted from EVA, neoprene, TPE, and silicone. Poron won out for its weight, price, and effectiveness. (Just don’t tell anyone that poron can’t prevent all those football concussions.)
But RePack’s design is more than just durable; the real brilliance is how it manages to fit within Royal Mail’s existing infrastructure. Because after you ship something inside its voluminous pack, your receiver can fold RePack down to the size of a letter, then place it back in any mail slot. Chou suggests that the mail system would then collect these bags as part of their existing pickup, automatically giving users their deposits back, and then selling the bags again inside a local mail center. There’s also a related app experience, that allows users to track the resources they’re saving over time.
Of course, this is all very much theoretical. The model would need heavy tweaking to work for large online retailers like Amazon (where so, so many boxes come from), and when analyzing the real environmental savings, weighing the man and machine power behind recollection, RePack might not be as utopian as it first appears. But given that we don’t exactly need more bubble wrap floating around the ocean, and there are so many postal, UPS, and FedEx dropboxes installed already, it certainly seems worth exploration.