Consumer Reports once tested various bottles to see how much product is actually left when we consider it "empty." The results were shocking: Up to 13% of toothpaste, 15% of condiments, 16% of detergent and a whopping 25% of hand lotion gets thrown out with the bottle, as consumers find it too difficult to evacuate the rest.
So when we first heard about LiquiGlide we were excited (particularly me, as I worked in "structural package design"—bottle design—for over a decade). Applied to the inside of a bottle, this no-stick miracle coating would let us evacuate every last drop of lotion, shampoo, ketchup, wood glue, et cetera, saving consumers millions of dollars collectively.
But when we didn't hear anything more for almost three years, we figured LiquiGlide had failed, another miracle technology that didn't live up to the hype. Thankfully, we were wrong: The Times has just reported that LiquiGlide has secured $7 million in VC funding and signed up their first manufacturer, Elmer's, who reckons the coating will give their glue bottles "a competitive advantage." (They've signed an exclusive licensing agreement.)
For furniture designer/builders who work with wood, this may not make a difference; while being able to get the last drop of wood glue from a bottle would be satisfying, from what I understand most woodworkers prefer Titebond's more expensive glue, as it's got a longer shelf life and supposedly performs better. (Any opinions?)
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What interested us is LiquiGlide's formulators' earlier claims that their product would influence structural package design. "Those squeeze bottles need a big cap. By eliminating the need for such a big cap we'd save 25,000 tons of petroleum-based plastics each year."
While I don't doubt those figures, I do doubt they'll change the shape of bottles and cap sizes. I understand the logic: Bottle openings are sized as large as they are to give stubborn mayonnaise, ketchup and the like the room to get out. But those predetermined sizes come with manufacturing incumbencies. The companies that produce the injection-molded pre-bottles—they look like test tubes—that will later go into blow-molding machines are all tooled up to specific sizes.
Furthermore, once a bottle is blown it needs to be filled, at high speed on a production line encompassing thousands of bottles. Every second it takes to fill a bottle costs the factory something. If the neck is made narrower to accommodate a smaller cap, the filling tubes will need to be made more narrow as well. With the same pumping pressure, they'll therefore fill more slowly. Increased pumping pressure will not come for free.
It's possible that if LiquiGlide takes off, the increased savings of smaller caps will pressure manufacturers to retool the molding and filling equipment. But the cost of applying LiquiGlide will be a factor in this as well. For now, we'll just have to wait to see how well Elmer's new bottles sell. And the company claims that a mayonnaise bottle will be released this year or next, possibly followed by a toothpaste container.