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This Incredibly Simple Packaging Idea Could Reduce Global Emissions

A Dutch design student proposes a common-sense alternative to the way most home goods are sold today.

This Incredibly Simple Packaging Idea Could Reduce Global Emissions
[Photo: Mirjam Lois de Bruijn ]

Look at any label on a household product, from laundry detergent to dish soap to shampoo, and you’ll see that most are 80% water. Across billions of units, shipped around the world, that adds up to a huge amount of extra weight–which means more packaging wasted, more fuel needed, and more pollution produced.

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What if each product was distilled down to its non-water ingredients and sold as a solid? That’s the idea behind the designer Mirjam de Bruijn‘s project Twenty, a concept for packaging where these products are sold in solid form. Once you’ve bought your shampoo pellets, you simply put them in a reusable bottle, and add water.

[Photo: Mirjam Lois de Bruijn ]
If the concept, which is de Bruijn’s thesis for the Design Academy Eindhoven, were to be widely adopted, she estimates the average plastic packaging per person in the Netherlands would reduce significantly. But the savings aren’t just in packaging materials. Many household products are transported around the world, so the reduced weight of the physical soap tablets as compared to big bottles of shampoo and soaps could save a lot of money–and emissions–on shipping costs. Shipping accounts for 90% of all global transport of goods, and up to 4% of total emissions, according to GreenBiz.

You can see the same premise at work with laundry detergent that comes in solid form, which is what inspired de Bruijn to research what other liquid household products could be distilled similarly. The chemical concentrates are the conceptual element of the project, but de Bruijn designed a brand and packaging based on the idea. All of her packaging is made of materials that can be recycled, like cardboard, as well as reusable plastic bottles.

[Photo: Mirjam Lois de Bruijn ]
“By raising awareness I hope to activate consumers in such a way that one day the concept of Twenty will become a standard for household goods,” de Bruijn tells Co.Design in an email. It’s a clever, simple way to reduce packaging, reduce costs, and save on emissions. For any company serious about sustainability–or just cutting costs–it seems like a no-brainer.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.

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