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Kao’s ‘Air’ Bottle Leverages the Virtues of Lightweight Packaging
Kao’s patented “Air” Bottles are made with three layers of flexible film filled with air pockets around the perimeter of the bottle to make it stand upright.

Kao’s ‘Air’ Bottle Leverages the Virtues of Lightweight Packaging

Kao’s new recyclable package for MyKirei personal care products — which uses up to 50% less plastic by weight than traditional rigid plastic bottles with pumps — embodies functional, emotional, and social benefits of a holistic sustainable design.

While the recyclability challenges of lightweighted packaging are of increasing importance to producers and consumers, the tremendous benefits of smaller, lighter packages must be acknowledged to find solutions that balance their virtues with more intuitive resource management.

Less material by weight equals fewer resources extracted from the planet, and less waste if disposed compared to heavier packages. For producers, less packaging brings down production costs overall, and with lighter, less voluminous shipments, transportation costs by weight, which are additionally offset by the ability to fit more items on a truck or pallet.

This translates for consumers, who enjoy increased access to products by the pricing and delivery of packaged goods in-store. Ecommerce relies heavily on lightweight packing material to maintain product quality from point A to B, and even “non-packaged” items such as clothing, fresh produce, and durable goods like furniture and automobiles are often packaged for distribution.

Lightweight packaging also lends itself to beauty and utility. Many packages are lightweighted by using plastic and other synthetics, which have near-endless potential for colorization, shaping, printing, and textures, often rendered to resemble wood, glass, and other high-value, aesthetically pleasing materials.

Flexibles and films, ubiquitous across the packaging supply chain, have versatile characteristics. In sachets, pouches, cling wraps, and bags (which recycling critic John Tierney calls, not inaccurately, “a marvel of economic, engineering, and environmental efficiency”), these thin plastics are cheap, strong, and often elegant in design, making lots of sense from a utilitarian and practical perspective.

It cannot be overstated that no lightweighted packaging material, namely plastics, in and of itself is at the crux of our issues with recyclability, pollution, and waste. It’s the way we use them, intentionally designing items to be thrown away in a global recycling system that isn’t equipped to effectively recover it for additional cycles of production.

But just as the material, shape, and size of package is part of the design, the creation of systems that ensure it is recovered and reintegrated it into the supply chain are, as well.

MyKirei is a new lifestyle brand launching in the US by Kao Corp. (makers of Bioré, Jergens, and Curél), with whom TerraCycle is partnered with in Japan. They are debuting the brand nationally with three products — Japanese Tsubaki & Rice Water Nourishing shampoo and conditioner, and Yuzu and Rice Water Nourishing hand wash — all of which are packaged in Kao’s patented “Air” Bottles, flexible film bottles filled with air pockets around the perimeter of the bottle to make it stand upright.

The innovative Air Bottles are said to use up to 50% less plastic by weight than traditional rigid plastic bottles with pumps. The brand promises the Air Bottles are 100% nationally recyclable through the recycling program we manage, free to consumers to use with the points incentive they can use to donate cash to charity.

Inspired by the Japanese philosophy of “Kirei” (which favors sustainability as well as beauty, cleanliness, simplicity, and balance), this collection of products is founded on the belief that care and respect for ourselves, our societies, and the world around us is key to simple, beautiful living. The brand hopes to inspire a gentle, more sustainable way of life.

With a recycling program and charity component developed as part of the product launch, vs. reactively down the road, MyKirei by Kao maintains and reinforces the functional, emotional, and social benefits of a beautiful, but typically non-recyclable, package with a holistic design approach.

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