Skip to main content

EPA Launches Packaging Design Challenge

Each year, Internet-based companies ship millions of books, CDs, DVDs and videos -- most of which arrive at their destinations packaged in landfill-clogging corrugated paperboard and plastic.

To address this growing problem, the U.S. EPA’s Office of Solid Waste, in partnership with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, has launched a nationwide challenge to rethink and redesign e-commerce shipping packaging. The “Cradle-to-Cradle Design Challenge” specifically targets the shipping packaging associated with the suburban home delivery of Internet purchases.

E-commerce presents an opportunity for system-wide change, according to EPA, because it is dependent on highly integrated technology for product distribution and returns. In addition, e-commerce shipping packaging is representative of the much larger arena of packaging used by the catalog and parcel shipping industries, the agency says.

Winning entries will be selected based on the degree to which they incorporate the "cradle-to-cradle" principle -- that an effective solution must address the entire life cycle of the material. Key issues include:
  • the systems needed to facilitate cyclical material flows
  • the ecological and human health characteristics of the materials
  • how physical design facilitates reuse and recyclability
  • the systems needed for packaging recovery
Because a cradle-to-cradle solution will require collaboration among a variety of stakeholders -- including packaging manufacturers, logistics specialists, e-commerce companies, and industrial designers –- Design Challenge organizers are encouraging group submissions representing a variety of disciplines.

The winning entries will be displayed at Pack Expo in Las Vegas, Oct. 13-15, 2003. For details on how to enter, visit the design challenge Web site.

More on this topic