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Columns
Renée Watson runs her own Oxford based science consultancy WATS.ON, where she boasts the delicious title of ‘Head of Explosions’.

The Big Bang

Renée Watson

On a crisp, still, Oxfordshire morning, if you listen very carefully you will probably hear the words ‘packaging’ and ‘urgggghhhh’ echoing across the dreaming spires. With overflowing bins, shifted collection dates and general post-Christmas consumerism getting us all down (it isn’t just me right?!), it’s a good time to reflect on the craziness of some packaging and what we can do about it.

Sure, there have been some improvements; at The Curiosity Box we have found compostable versions of pretty much everything (you just have to deal with the kids enjoying hours of entertainment licking and sticking those fluffy starch-based sticks onto themselves and the family pet), but the UK is still a long way behind places like Germany and Sweden where minimalism has extended to parcels, post and even food packaging.

So what could our future packaging look like? And would David Attenborough approve? Let’s first go to Sweden and imagine mixing the brain of Einstein with Ikea and you get an idea of just how clever and beautiful a new range of packaging, being developed in Sweden, is. ‘This Too Shall Pass’ was created by Hannah Billqvist and Anna Glansén of Tomorrow Machine and includes a juice box that is made from seaweed extract, Agar, which is also used in vegetarian jelly.

It has no taste and is colourless, so not only does it make a nifty drink carton that shrinks to a tiny size once empty, but it is also really pretty – like a stained glass window lit up by your orange juice! They have also got a dry goods packet, for things like rice and pasta, that is made of paper-thin beeswax moulded into an eye-catching blue pyramid. To get to the booty inside you simply peel the wrapper like a piece of fruit.

Tomorrow Machine isn’t the only company producing innovative enviro-packaging. If you google revolutionary packaging, you will be inundated with twisty, compostable, reusable and sustainable new packaging options. But it isn’t just about saving the environment!

Marks and Spencer introduced natural materials such as clay and a patented concoction of minerals into its strawberry packaging to increase the fridge life of the strawberries by a few days. M&S was sold on the science when it was shown that ethylene (the chemical that causes ripening in fruit) was absorbed by the packaging, thus helping the strawberries stay in their ‘just-picked’ state longer.

It is clearly important (and also quite good fun) for us to find and adopt new and improved packaging to help reduce waste. If Blue Planet II has taught us anything, it is that the amount of plastic flooding our oceans is at catastrophic levels, and there is a way we can all change the world – one compostable straw at a time.

- Renée Watson