This posting will be part of a series of articles about things that we thought would be easy, or are supposed to be, but turn out not to be. As JFK said, we "do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard"…
I want to tell you about the seemingly easy issue for a startup to solve: "How do you keep your box flaps from opening?"
"Tape it!", "Glue it!", "Shrink wrap it!", are all good suggestions. And they sound easy. I wish they were.
One of the things we're trying to do is create products without creating waste, especially long-lasting waste. As part of that goal, we have gone through a lot of trouble to ensure that our packaging has a minimal environmental footprint. Most of us will end up discarding the packaging that products arrive in, whether they're the beautifully designed boxes from Apple and Samsung or the bare-bones
packaging meant only to get an already purchased product safely to your door. In these cases, there's little need to further impress the buyer. If the box is destined to be quickly discarded, then it's best that it quickly degrades and doesn't spend years or decades in a landfill.
Our packaging goal was:
- Use eco-friendly materials that are non-toxic and contain minimal petroleum products.
- Make it biodegradable.
- Utilize it for all online sales with no added inks and minimal energy expenditure, since the recipient had already purchased the product and didn't need to be further impressed with colors and marketing messages.
- Use it for store sales with added sticker(s) to make it more attractive to new prospects, but use eco-friendly inks and papers.
- Inside the main box, provide some compartmentalization in the form of pouches, making the pouches reusable for similar purposes or to contain other items—and also biodegradable if the user decides to discard them.
- Make it easy to ship without needing additional packaging or boxing.
We encountered a few hiccups along the way, with our initial packaging run yielding washed-out prints due to the inks and materials chosen. However, our subsequent efforts led to the improved packaging you see today.
Yet, a significant challenge emerged: although the main box's tabs were effective in keeping it closed under casual conditions, they fell short of deterring inquisitive fingers from prying it open or ensuring it remained sealed amidst the rigors of transit. In anticipation of such issues, we had preemptively ordered thousands of circular stickers, aiming to use them as a robust sealing solution.
Somewhere after the first 50 or more boxes were sealed, we started to hear little clicks coming from the boxes. Upon examination, we found that the stickers were losing their adhesion to one side of the box and flipping off, making a small clicking noise when they did so.
It turns out that our boxes, as part of their biodegradability, have no coating, and without a coating, these sticker seals didn't have much to adhere to.
We rushed out and bought virtually every type of sticker we could find—some 25-30 different ones of various sizes and materials.
None worked. We then resorted to using a special heating iron on the stickers until we found a couple of them that would maintain a seal for long periods of time (the others would hold for a day or two).
We used this method for a few hundred Kini boxes before we realized that it was grossly inefficient and was costing us a lot of time. The search was back on. Or should we go with shrink wrapping? That's not a very environmentally friendly way to handle this problem. What about glues? Personally, I am resistant to use glues that may give off fumes or be a messy process to deal with. (We rejected the use of glues for our plastics too)
Or should we order the next batch of boxes with a coating? Nah, that would be another easy way out. We do the hard things, and we intend to win!
Without a coating, the boxes are more absorbent. So we figured, why not try a water-based adhesive? We chose to use tape used to seal large cartons, which is water-based. It doesn't look as great, but we taped a dozen boxes shut and waited.
Armed with that knowledge, it didn't take long to find a more suitable tape of that kind, along with a dispenser that made it a breeze to tape boxes shut!
Now, any suggestions on what we should do with a few thousand round sticker seals?!