Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consumer Product Dispensers and Containers

I've been thinking a lot lately about how wasteful consumer product dispensers and contains are to the products that are contained within them. I will use soap pumps, toothpaste and gasoline pumps as examples.
  • Soap pumps - This can be either hand soap or dish soap. Think about what the bottle looks like when you can no long pump liquid out of the dispenser. There is all the residue on the sides of the bottle, and liquid in the very bottom of the contains that the pump is not sucking. There are a few ways to retrieve this waste, for example: tipping the bottle upside down into another container, or rinsing the dispenser with water to. Both have drawbacks. The upside down approach still leaves residue, and the rinsing dilutes the product.
  • Gasoline pumps - Whenever I pump gas, there is always a drip that comes out of the pump and hits the ground as I remove the pump from my car and place back on the holder. I jiggle, I shake, I wait, but still there is always a drip. Given the oil / energy crisis, it bothers me that I am dropping this gasoline on the ground.
  • Toothpaste - I am sure everyone has come up with many ways to squeeze that last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. There are attachments you can add to slide down the tube you use it, you can roll the tube, etc. Down the last bit, there is always toothpaste left to push out with force.
In each example there is waste, and each design has been around for ages. Why hasn't there been improvements? My suggestions are as follows:
  • Soap Bottoms - Design a pump with a pit in the bottom so the contents drains into the pit. The pipe on the pump can sit in this pit. This solves the waste that cannot be pumped at the bottom. For the residue, design a slicker plastic to contain the fluids in, or make the fluid more runny. Making the fluid run will not work in all cases. For example, cleaners need to stick on surfaces and dissolve grime and build up.
  • Gasoline pumps - Add a finalization step to the pump that either blows the left over gas into the tank, or add a sucking mechanism to pull the left over gas out of the pump. Or, ensure there is no drip on the pump, this simply means the fluid released into the hose was not properly drained out.
  • Toothpaste - I'm not sure about this one. Maybe a larger part of the container and be unscrewed for squeezing out. Or a tube that does not allow air in? I know they have machines now the auto squeeze for your from top to bottom.
Regardless, my point here is that I am aware of these shortcomings, and I shouldn't be. More so, if someone does not care to deal with the fuse of trying to consume all the product in a container, then this remaining product is being thrown away. While a small amount for that one person, but given a billion or so people, it's a lot. That amount of product could have been packaged and sold as additional units verses being thrown away.

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