Brown paper bag/ white paper bag

18 June 2015
What choices do we make when considering packaging re-use, and how can these choices be influenced through material choices?
In my research it became apparent that one of the factors affecting if and how we re-use is our understanding of materials, their physical characteristics and their symbolic properties.

Interview participants described their different feelings towards packaging depending on colour, texture and their associations. One research participant explained how she saved paper bags for her husband to use in the garden shed to separate and store seeds. She explained that she would only save the brown paper ones, but discard the white ones as inappropriate. As there is no difference in the two types of bag’s performance it seems this judgement was being made based primarily on the material’s symbolic properties rather than its physical ones. But it’s also about the context of the reuse. The brown paper bags with their ‘natural’ raw properties were probably deemed to have a better ‘natural fit’ in the activity of gardening than the more ‘processed’ bleached properties of the white bag.

Another example is the blue wine bottle. On a number of occasions empty blue wine bottles were observed being displayed as ornaments in living space. It seemed these were being reused purely for their owner’s like for them and their decorative value in the context of their home. The colour of the glass seems to have created different associations and therefore greater value than other clear or green wine bottles. 

Material properties is a significant factor that can affect re-use decisions. to read more get. Designing for Re-use, The Life of Consumer Packaging @