The inherent wastefulness of disposable packaging as currently perpetuated by many companies is a frustrating (and sometimes injurious) issue. Many designers have attempted to rethink how packaging could be reusable, biodegradable or even edible, and the litmus test for future sustainability would be whether big companies like Amazon or Apple will widely adopt better packaging practices and products -- along with consumers that consume less.
Intended to be scaled for larger companies and other institutions, Royal College of Art graduate Mireia Gordi i Vila is proposing "Fragile," a reusable, modular, collapsible packaging design that looks something like a flexible clamshell membrane that will fit any odd-sized, valuable object. The design has been tailored to fit entrenched logistics networks like those operated by Amazon and its ilk, incorporating figurative and literal flexibility. Products are wrapped in a flexible membrane that is supported by a hard, durable frame, creating something that is almost like a drum -- all of which can be reused.
"Fragile" could be adopted by institutions like museums or galleries, to ship precious but awkwardly shaped items, without having to resort to conventional and wasteful methods of protection. Goods like wine could be shipped in tailored vessels that would cushion bottles with a cushy skin, that would be hidden in another secondary, recyclable shell.
"Fragile" is the end result of Gordi i Vila experimenting with various elastic materials from gels to nylon nets. The idea is that Fragile can be used in conjunction with traditional packing crates, all of which are owned and recovered by the shipping company or postal service itself. Gordi i Vila's proposal is not only a new product, but also an inquiry into how the whole system can be remade, she says:
Eventually, I can imagine Fragile being adopted by generalist sellers such as Amazon or shipping companies like the Royal Mail. As online commerce increases, more and more goods are shipped individually from warehouses to customers, therefore, their handling and footprint should be re-evaluated. Fragile sees shipping as a service and builds a product around it.
In the end, there won't be a silver bullet solution to developing more sustainable packaging practices, as modern packaging itself is based on a culture of disposability, waste and a mentality of instant gratification, with little thought to the life cycle of all that stuff. Creating reusable packaging like this might be a step in the right direction, if consumer habits and expectations are overhauled as well. More over at Mireia Gordi i Vila's website and the Royal College of Art.