Packaging has been considered a necessary evil—until now, as designers are finding creative ways to encase products in materials that serve a second function, from measuring tape to toys

Before the industrial revolution, households produced little to no waste, either completely using or repurposing all of their items—a reality that is nearly unimaginable in today's world of trash receptacles, recycle bins and landfills. One major contributor to the problem of accumulated waste is packaging for purchased goods, which is at best recyclable and at worst fills the dump.

To combat this issue, brands are focusing on intentional design and educational materials that extend the lives of packaging, implementing playful and utilitarian use cases that encourage creative reuse or even serve a second purpose of their very own. Here's how five brands are rethinking packaging design to reduce waste and enhance the product experience:

Inside The Box
Packaging concept Inside The Box utilizes leftover boxes from refugee aid shipments to make toys for children. Kids can cut, fold and assemble the shipping boxes, which are printed with illustrations, to build play cars and animals.

Packaging concept SAIKAI is a three section hexagonal cookie box that unfolds and becomes a serving plate. The box design was constructed to serve two purposes: one as an effective transportation case for thin delicate cookies, and the other as an easily accessible presentation cookie platter for groups and parties.

Restaurant concept Born2Be designed a modular kebab to-go container that customers can customize along with their food. All orders come with stickers that customers can use to personalize their containers, sticking them where they want. To-go containers are modular by design, built of stackable two-kebab box layers that act like components. A final layer wraps around and secures with a handle to allow for easy portability.

IKEA + Memac Ogilvy & Mather
Furniture company IKEA instructs buyers on how to transform their iconic blue shopping bag into other products. A limited number of Frakta bags are printed with cutting and sewing patterns on the inside surface. The bags also come with instructional booklets that guide customers in making everything from aprons and baby bibs to picnic mats.

Student-designed T-shirt brand 10pt packages its shirts with minimal material and eco-friendly substrates utilizing a tubular shape that can unroll into a measuring tape.

Creative multi-purpose packaging is just one way that brands are fighting throwaway culture and paving the way for greater sustainability. For more insights on this topic, see PSFK's report Promoting Social Responsibility With Sustainable Packaging.

Lead Image: Born2Be