Think-Inside-of-the-Box with Packaging

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Lateral thinking or thinking out of the box might be great for solving puzzles and problems, but answers are not always outside the box. For eco-friendly packaging, the better answer might be in the box itself.

One of the most popular and troublesome materials for packaging today is plastic. Plastic is cheap, convenient, and durable. It’s very good at what it does and that’s exactly the problem. As most of us know, plastic lingers around for many years. Plastic waste clutter landfills, leach chemicals, and even end up in the ocean where it harms marine life and ecosystems. A significant portion of plastic waste generated every year consists of millions of single use, disposable plastic packaging. Other food packaging materials like Styrofoam also raise concerns on their effect on the environment.

Cardboard and paperboard box packaging might therefore be a better, more eco-friendly option provided they are biodegradable and have minimal additional chemicals (plastic covering, toxic paints or prints, etc.). The following are some products and concepts that use cardboard/paperboard packaging.


Boxed Wine In contrast to bottled wines, boxed wines can hold more volume, have less carbon footprint, and can preserve wine longer. A typical “box” can hold 2-10 liters of wine, compared to the usual wine bottles. This means less mass packaging for wines. Boxes also weigh less than a case full of bottles which translates to lesser carbon footprints via transport (ex. from Spain wineries to US markets). It can also keep the wine fresh longer because it keeps out the air that normally oxidizes the wine in an open bottle.

Crearive Designer Shopping Bags Customers love Lee’s Never-Wasted shopping bag. Instead of producing typical disposable designer shopping bags, Lee came up with the idea of using cut out prints so the shopping bag can be reused as a bookmarker, a board game, dice, ruler, calendar, and many others. The Never-Wasted shopping bag’s color scheme reflects the warm brown color associated with environmentally friendly products.

Oyster Pail Takeout Box Normally referred to as Chinese takeout boxes, oyster pails were originally used in China to transport fresh oysters. It is usually made up of folded paperboard that transforms into a box, able to hold hot or cold solid food like rice. Oyster pails are a better option for take-outs than Styrofoam and plastic containers because they break down more easily and can be recycled, provided proper procedures are followed (cleaning food stains, etc.)

Soccer Balls for Kids from Aid Boxes Somewhat similar to Lee’s Never-Waste Shopping Bag, the Dream Ball concept aims to reuse aid boxes as soccer balls. The project proposes printing cutout soccer ball patterns onto aid boxes sent to countries like Tanzania, Somalia, etc. where children can’t afford to play with real soccer balls. The prints can be cut and used in scale to produce smaller balls like tennis balls and baseballs.

Paper Packaging for Fresh Meat This concept has great potential in helping reduce plastic waste from fresh meat packaging. The proposed paper packaging is 100% biodegradable and does not absorb moisture from the fresh meat, which is covered with grease proof paper.


These are only a handful of creative ideas and actual products that are starting to gain popularity in the packaging industry. They stand as proof that sometimes, the answers to problems are in the box itself.


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by  z287marc on Flickr.

Estel M.
About Estel M. (339 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and nature activities. She is passionate about sustainability and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.

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