Could This Alternative to Bubble Wrap Reduce Ecommerce’s Dependence on Plastic?

It won the 'Better With Less' design competition

Numminen's design keeps items attached to the walls of the box.
Headshot of Alissa Fleck

Plastic waste has risen to the level of environmental crisis, and the ecommerce boom, which is heavily dependent on plastic for safe deliveries, certainly contributes to the problem.

In light of this, Metsa Board, a European producer of paper products, recently launched the “Better With Less” competition to find packing solutions for the fastest-growing types of consumer packages that would take some pressure off the environment while still fulfilling consumer and retailer needs.

Iiro Numminen’s ecommerce submission, “Stretching Inner Part”—a corrugated box with an insert allowing products to attach to the package without the need for bubble wrap—was the competition’s winning concept. According to the competition website, “the idea of the inner part is based on triangularly cut areas. Each corner of the area is attached at the tip of the triangle of the adjacent area, thus forming a unified ‘triangle network.’”

“The balance between the rigidity of the board and the strength required to support the product weight is well thought through,” says Cyril Drouet, design & innovation director at Metsä Board, and chairperson of the competition.

“In this age of ecommerce, protecting products in the most sustainable way possible is critical,” notes contest juror John B. Mahaffie, co-founder of Leading Futurists LLC. “This design enables a single material to take up that role, in an approach that seems endlessly adaptable. It is at once of great utility and highly aesthetic.”

Numminen will be awarded 10,000 euro for the design.

Other finalists included a plastic-free toilet paper package (that also acts as a standing roll to dispense the product), a reusable paperboard package for cosmetics and a functional container for cosmetic applicators.

“These all represent functional and fresh package designs with sustainability and consumer experience at their core,” Drouet says. “Consumers are looking for brands and packaging that engage them, entertain and, most of all, connect them with good storytelling.”

The “Twist” design by Pawel Krawczugo, which won honorary mention, was designed to hold a variety of items that would normally be sold in plastic:

The “Plastic-Banning Toilet Roll” by Jeroen Caelen serves double duty, as both a way to sell multiple toilet paper rolls while also acting as a toilet roll to dispense the product:

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.