The Disappearing Package – Twinings Tea Bags

Derrick Lin


A Masters Thesis Project by Pratt Institute student Aaron Mickelson.

Every year, we throw away a ton of packaging waste (actually, over 70 million tons). It makes up the single largest percentage of trash in our landfills (beating out industrial waste, electronics, food… everything). Figures released by the EPA indicate this problem is getting worse every year.

As a package designer (and grad student—meaning I know everything and can solve every problem, naturally), I was concerned about where this trend is going. Of course, many talented designers working in the field have made great efforts over the past few years to reduce the amount of packaging that goes onto a product. However, for my Masters Thesis, I asked the question: Can we eliminate that waste entirely?

Twinings Tea Bags

Individual tea packets, wax-lined for freshness, are perforated together and folded up accordion style. This provides a new opportunity to expand on the marketing material present on the package, and to eliminate unnecessary waste.

Twinings tea bags, as they’re sold now, are stapled to a paper handle at the end of a string, wrapped in a waxed paper folder, stacked with other folders in a heavy paperboard box and then sealed in plastic. The outermost layer of plastic is thrown away immediately, the box when all of the tea has been used.

Instead of stacking the paper folders into a box, here they are stitched together and impermanently glued into a folded up, self-standing brick. There is still packaging waste involved here (as will likely always be the case with food packaging) but it has been severely curtailed. And, as with all Disappearing Packages, when the product is gone, so is the packaging.

With the added surface area and the storybook-quality of the accordion packaging, the manufacturer has a new opportunity to provide information or a story to the consumer.

The consumer unsticks and tears off tea bags one-at-a-time, with each second bag revealing a new spread. The folder itself becomes the hanging tag. With the last tea bag, the package is eliminated.

Every solution features an insignia that both identifies it as a Disappearing Package (building brand recognition) and clearly instructs the consumer on how to disappear it.

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Derrick Lin

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