2009 Editors’ Choice Award Winner: Sustainable Packaging
Terralina Natural Skincare Gift Box
Terralina’s holiday gift set box proves true the saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The gift set box, which holds bottles, tottles, and jars of the brand’s 98.85%-natural skin care products, was produced from 100%-postconsumer-recycled grocery bags from the streets of Delhi, India.
The program to recycle grocery bags started as a way to clean up India’s streets. Discarded grocery bags are a big litter problem in the country’s cities, clogging city drains during the rainy season. The organization in India that founded the program collects the bags and turns a profit by recycling them into new packaging.
During its travels, U.S. packaging firm Design & Source Productions discovered the bag-recycling program. “We had been talking to Design & Source for two-and-a-half years,” says Gina Garrubbo, cofounder of Terralina. “We came close to using its TerraSkin tree-free paper, but then we fell in love with this idea of reusing the bags from the streets of India.”
The program also creates jobs for local women in India. “The women get paid above fair wages,” says Patricia Bazan Garrubbo, Terralina’s other cofounder. “These are women who are homebound because they are mothers. The gathering of the bags allows them to bring some money to their families while still taking care of their children.”
The bags are cleaned by hand with a natural, nontoxic cleanser and hung to dry. The bags are then sorted by color and cut into strips. Using proprietary machinery, the strips are melted and pressed into sheets, which creates a thick, durable material. “Think of it as ironing all of the bags together,” says Nicole Smith, environmental director for Design & Source Productions. “The material that it creates is really more of a film, which is why it has a similar look and feel to painted leather. It’s not woven.”
The large sheets can be cut and sewn into items such as cosmetic bags, shopping bags, and purses. Terralina’s box was created with an open top.
No secondary inks are used to decorate the sheets. Instead, the color of the material is the original color of the plastic bags. Colored bags on the material’s top layer create the decorative patterns.
The colors and patterns available depend on the color of the bags that were collected. “We are somewhat limited in terms of colors,” says Smith. “Obviously, the brands that want to use this material need to realize that every piece will be unique and have its own character—but that’s part of the charm of this material.” Terralina chose a purple and green pattern.
“Plastic grocery bags never looked so good,” says CPC Packaging awards panelist Maggie Wedemeyer, vice president of package development for Inter Parfums.
Due to the bag-collection process, the box, which is reusable, has a longer lead time and a premium price point. However, says Bazan Garrubbo, “We just couldn’t pass it up.”
“This concept is fascinating!” says panelist Scott Widro, vice president of manufacturing and materials management for Chanel. “To solve a health and environmental problem and create attractive packaging is innovative and shows a true concern for humanity.”