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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

Don’t you find it irritating when you buy something small and it comes wrapped like a pass-the-parcel in mountains of packaging? I mean, I love a bit of a surprise, but we are all trying to do our bit for the environment, and here you are selling me some nail clippers in a box big enough for shoes! And it isn’t just over the counter: some companies post things in enough packaging to insulate my whole house.

Sure, there have been some improvements – we don’t see much polystyrene anymore and a lot of the packaging used can be recycled (either in your bin or by your child or husband finding hours of entertainment licking and sticking those fluffy starch-based sticks onto themselves and the family pet).

I may well be feeling a little oversensitive about this, having just done a review of the packing we use for my company, The Curiosity Box. All our packaging is biodegradable, we don’t use any plastic but it is incredibly difficult to find stuff that looks amazing whilst being good for the planet! So you can imagine my delight when I discovered what must be the love child of Einstein and Ikea, ‘This Too Shall Pass’.

‘This Too Shall Pass’ was created by Hanna 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 simple peel the wrapper like a piece of fruit.

However, the item that I like the most is Tomorrow Machine’s oil container. Made from a candy shell of caramelised sugar, this shiny dome containing your olive oil can be cracked like an egg and then dissolved in warm water. Tomorrow Machine isn’t the only company producing innovative enviropackaging. If you google revolutionary packaging you will find an array of 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, and with time prices of these quirky innovations will become more affordable. We as consumers can help make excessive packaging a thing of the past by petitioning with our pennies and choosing eco packaged items over those drowning in plastic.

- Renée Watson