Embrace the Ugly — Prevent Food and Packaging Waste banner

Embrace the Ugly — Prevent Food and Packaging Waste

You’ve likely heard of the ugly produce movement. The premise is simple: not all fruits and vegetables are beautiful, but we should eat them anyways. Embrace the ugly, eat that gnarly carrot and deformed tomato, challenge your preconceived notions, and do your part to “save” all the produce that would otherwise be relegated to waste. 

We may need a similar movement for packaging, because the mindset around packaging is not that different from produce. We believe that packaging is supposed to be beautiful because of ingrained consumer perceptions that associate quality with pristine appearance, and because of this, we eschew materials with aesthetic deficiencies, even if they perform quite well. This comes into play particularly with recycled plastic, which may be a bit gray, a bit hazy, speckled with pinpoint black dots, or otherwise simply “not perfect”. Do we have to avoid it because consumers will be grossed out by it? Is there a way we can embrace the ugly in packaging, too? 

At the end of the day, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the #uglypackaging movement to go viral. And fortunately for all of us, there’s a lot of recycled plastic out there that is beautiful. But fortune favors the bold, and my hat will be firmly tipped to the brave companies out there who can “save” the recycled plastic that features aesthetic deficiencies (that’s a nice way of saying ugly) and change the narrative around the consumer perceptions that we all believe to be so tightly bound to. 

We know that many companies out there are wrestling with the best ways to use recycled content in packaging, and that’s why we at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition have created our Design for Recycling Guide to help. Whether you’re shooting for beautiful or bold, there’s more than one way to be part of this movement. 

Warm regards

Adam Gendell
Associate Director
Sustainable Packaging Coalition
(Guest contributor)


Searious Business 100% fully-recyclable drink pouch

Frugal Cup  Recyclable cup made from recycled paper

Banyan Nation  Recycled HDPE manufacturer

Ecostar 100% Recycled Pet packaging


The Protective Packaging Design Challenge organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in partnership with Ubuntoo is inviting entries till January 17th 2020. If you, or someone you know, has an innovation that can reduce the total environmental impact of protective packaging (sometimes called secondary packaging) then please enter this contest.    


The annual GreenBiz20 conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in February 2020. This event attracts over 1500 decision-makers from businesses around the world. 

Register to our Daily Digest and stay up to date with the latest news of the industry. Just click the subscribe button in our News Section.  

"If you're not buying recycled products, you're not really recycling."  — Ed Begley, Jr. (American Actor) 

Trademarks and copyrights are owned by Adam Gendell and information is based on publicly available data. Ubuntoo is not affiliated with Adam Gendell



Adam Gendell

November 25, 2019
Ajax loader

Please do not refresh or press back button.