In a brief my university lecturer secured, I tackled a project for the Edward Bulmer: Pots of Paint company, who wanted to make the packaging of their paint envionmentally friendly. This ensued into a lot of research into sustainability including a visit to C.A.T (Centre for Alternative Technology) in Wales, to discover more about unlikely thought of materials, and methods that work well for protective packaging.
My solution to the brief came in the form of a nearly 100% compostable package - also with great transport efficiency.
The paint is stored inside a bladder made from #4 LDPE an easily domestically-recyclable plastic, which is manufactured using 70% less plastic than a plastic bottle of the same volume. It is perfectly practical for containing heavy liquids, and will also not corrode from any chemical reactions that may come from the paint; as #4 LDPE is what is used in industrial anti-corrosive work surfaces.
The bladder is contained inside a moulded shell that takes the form of a bottle, with handle, to allow for an easy pour of the paint into a paint tray. But, the best bit is that this outer shell is made from recycled cardboard and paper and is 100% bio degradable - So after use, it can be put onto any earth, and it will compost back into the ecosystem, actually improving the quality of the soil. I decided to use a pourable bottle rather than a bucket shape - My reasons for doing this is because I wanted to use as little plastic as I could and even though it is recyclable I wanted to make as much of my design as compostable as possible. A paint container needs to be airtight and so to have an airtight lid this needs it to be manufactured from plastic or metal. My research showed me that plastic and metal are the best materials to do this, as natural materials may degrade quicker over time letting air seep into the container and spoiling the paint. Therefore a bottle with a screw cap is a whole lot less plastic than a bucket lid.
The labels of the containers I proposed should be printed using Soy inks, as conventional inks are petroleum based, which is a precious finite resource that is currently being exploited. To steer away from contributing to the depletion of the Earths crude oil supply, we should try and use substitute renewable resources, such as Soy ink. An added bonus of these inks is that they do not need as much energy to remove from the paper when recycled, saving more fuelling energy of the machines at the recycle plant.
I added an additional label to describe and display the colour of the paint inside, as I discovered many customers found that they had no way of deciding on a colour without opening the container, which of course then makes the paint non-returnable. I designed this to look like a dictionary description, which keeps to the formality of the Pots of Paint brand.
The most wasteful thing that can happen, is for the paint to get damaged in transit, as it is then no good to the customer, and if it is spilled it is worthless for recycling into a new container for resale. It is also a wasted journey as a new shipment must be sent out, costing more money for a driver and fuel, whilst also causing more pollution from vehicle exhaust, and using more petroleum. This is why protecting the product is one of the most important issues that must be addressed. My solution is that the containers will be held in suspension away from the sides of the box using protective mushroom packaging moulds, which will encase the paint containers. Mushroom material is made from Mycelium (mushroom roots) and is similar to it’s toxic comparison, Styrofoam. It has all the benefits of Styrofoam, being just as cushioning, solid, lightweight and also having options such as fire retardant etc. Mushroom material is the perfect solution for protecting heavy goods because it is 100% compostable, meaning it is compatible with Earth.
The mushroom moulds will fit inside a recycled cardboard box, that is in-turn, also recyclable or compostable. The box allows for cube optimisation, enabling more units to be fit into one delivery truck cutting costs and energy of travel. The box will also have a fold up handle, so that anyone handling the box is more likely to sensibly use the handle to carry it, rather than kicking or sliding it across the floor, or even drop it from a height.
My packaging solution is practical, and is also completely compostable and recyclable meaning that 100% of the package can be easily disposed of in an eco-friendly way and should not see landfill. It is also made largely from recycled materials and in such ways that use small amounts of energy to manufacture. The materials are easily obtainable locally and come from sustainable and reliable resources. Enjoy!