Every insignificant thing we consume that is packaged in typical plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade. A stylish new prototype of a reusable container container called Nephentes doesn't let you forget its designer's original manifesto against plastic waste.
Designer Marilu Valente of Merged Vertice has often observed that, in terms of recycling, "in the cosmetics sector, the containers are especially problematic; usually their unique function is to attract the consumer’s attention." Her response to this has been to create a container for soaps, shampoo and the like that is equally eye-catching but designed to be reusable and recyclable.
To this end, the Nephentes container functions without a cap (the caps of even the most widely recyclable containers are often not believed to be recyclable and are thrown in the trash, even if they can indeed be recycled). Instead, the tip of the Nephentes neatly plugs itself up with its narrow, nozzle-like tip.
"The inspiration came from 2 main factors. The first one being that usual personal care packaging are made with different types of plastics (one for the cap and one for the body) so I wanted to have a shape which which integrated the body of the bottle and the cap," said Valente. "Since I follow biomimicry as a design principle, I have looked at the natural shape Nepenthes which are carnivorous plants."
But what's the use of yet another reusable container in this disposable world, other than the "travel" containers frequently marketed by companies that are often just more plastic to buy? According to an interview with Fast Company, Valente envisions her design existing in a slightly more eco-conscious world for it to achieve its maximum effect—a world where products like shampoo are sold in bulk and customers bring their own containers. If this sounds like a fantasy, just look at German supermarkets like Original Unverpackt; it doesn't seem far-fetched for other countries to emulate their example.
In a move that reduces product waste, the Nephentes also is squeezable, eliminating a problem spotted by Consumer Reports in which an average of 25 percent of the original product was deemed inaccessible and left behind in standard lotion containers when they were thrown out.
The Nephentes remains just a prototype-in-the-making, but it was awarded first place in the Concepts We Wish Were Real international design competition, encouraging its possible production one day. The fact that it has not been produced yet means Valente aims to one day manufacture it out of bioplastics – further in line with its eco-friendly cause.