It’s no secret that Japan loves good packaging, but that doesn’t mean it’s also completely oblivious to the unnecessary waste all those layers produce. With Earth Day coming up next month, “On: Design” looks into a few initiatives that address the nation’s plastic waste problem.
Buoyed by good intentions
Designed by Sayumi Tadokoro for Techno-Lab, an Internet of Things technology plastic component maker, Buoy products are made entirely from marine plastic collected from shores across Japan. It’s a brand Techno-Lab actually hopes it will eventually be able to abandon, once efforts to reduce ocean pollution take hold.
It’s not easy to combine the mishmash of plastics washed up on beaches into a coherent product. Buoy, however, manages to tone down its hues without the use of dye and bring color synergy to its collections of household items. Its marbled off-whites, reds, yellows, greens and blues are all created through combinations of carefully color-sorted resin fragments. The simple forms of Tadokoro’s latest designs — a series of leaf-shaped desk trays (¥1,430, ¥2,420 and ¥3,300) and petite rounded and concave plant pots (both ¥3,570) — accentuate the material’s uneven texture and the serendipitous outcome of mixing different resins.
Though the trays can be bought on Buoy’s online store, the plant pots are currently only available via the Sogo department store’s Japan Project collaboration with crowdfunding site Makuake, where it has already reached more than 4.5 times its target in pledges.
Razor sharp ideas
Disposable safety razors are notoriously difficult to recycle. Composed of a mix of non-biodegradeable plastics with hard-to-detach sharp blades, it takes a specialist company to separate them into recyclable materials. It would be best to use an alternative, but there are times — when traveling, for example — when they are convenient. Kitchen and toiletry goods manufacturer Kai’s solution for those who like the close shave of a three-blade disposable razor is to reduce its plastic by 98%.
Product designer Mai Kadokura and graphic designer Yayoi Kato were inspired by milk cartons and paper spoons for Kai’s clever flat-packed design that folds out into a safety razor. Made with a scored card, it’s easy to construct. Just fold down the blade section, fold up the sides to form the handle and then reuse the blades’ protective sticker to secure it all at the neck. The natural brown card can resist warm water up to 40 degrees Celsius and is accented with brightly colored, unisex handles.
The Kai design not only looks far more attractive than most disposable razors, it also has the added advantage of being even more compact — just 3.1 millimeters thick when flat and only weighing 4 grams. They come in sets of five (¥1,100), each a different color, and can be pre-ordered online from April 1 before it launches online on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day.
Staying in the loop
Loop — first established in the U.S. in 2019 by Terracycle and now up and running in the U.K., France and Canada — aims to encourage a waste-free society through the use of reusable packaging, and it comes with other benefits. Predominantly fashioned in stainless steel, aluminium, glass and sustainable plastic, Loop’s packaging has a uniform aesthetic that relieves the chaos of cluttered cupboards and shelves. Doubling as a delivery service that picks up empties, it also takes the hassle out of sorting through household recyclables.
Japan is one of several countries preparing to join Loop services, with plans to initially roll out in Tokyo this spring or early summer. Its roster of brands involved is impressive, including Lotte, Canon, Ajinomoto, Kikkoman, Shiseido and Aeon, with each designing its own packaging following Loop guidelines.
The lineup of options are as stylish as they are durable. Of note is Canon’s pale brushed-stainless-steel ink refill bottles, each sporting a marine creature motif in colors to match the contents; Lotte’s minimalist steel screw-top Xylitol gum containers; and Luvhair’s glass shampoo bottle with a label featuring imagery on the reverse side, so that it’s visible through the clear liquid.
Japan residents can pre-register with Loop, which only charges a small deposit (yet to be determined) per container and the cost of its contents. Empties are returned in the same box-tote that products are delivered in, and are washed and reused countless times before being responsibly disposed of or recycled.
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