WIG: Compostable Food Container


The advent of compostable food containers underscores two different and equally interesting design challenges. The first is how to design containers to optimally carry the food and beverage items being purchased. The second is how to design around sustainability and elicit behaviors in people that comply with sustainability best practice, such as discerning which trash container to throw things out in (regular, recycle or compost)? From the user standpoint, containers should first fulfill their basic functional tasks of providing enclosed, durable and transportable storage for food and beverage items. The existing containers in my school cafeteria are certainly spacious enough to fit as much food as I want and durable enough to withstand at least a couple of hours of transition to different surfaces, temperatures, etc. Where they fall short for me is on transportability insofar as the only non-disruptive way to carry them currently is by hand. The gaps between the top and bottom would cause leakage if placed in a bag and there is no handle to string onto your hand, wrist or arm. What is equally as interesting to me about this object is the sustainability component, which includes both the material used in manufacturing and distribution as well as the environment to support their reusability. To illustrate the latter point with a specific example, groups at my graduate school have experimented with different ways of displaying information to educate users on which items should be tossed into which bin. The most effective method I saw was to include physical examples of the types of items that go into each bin, and being very specific about this e.g. the plastic top of a bowl goes into one bin and the bottom would go into another bin. Any aspect of this would be an interesting design challenge to tackle in the future!

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