Fritz Water Vest

Several packaging experts have joined together to develop a flexible package that will enable people in disaster areas or areas where water is not easily available to transport water.

The traditional method in these areas is to use whatever containers are available, typically 5-gal buckets. Carrying these containers, typically on the head, can cause chronic health issues.

Enter the Fritz Water Vest, designed to help populations in disaster areas or impoverished areas move water safely and hygienically from source to home. The vest is simply two layers of robust flexible materials heat-sealed with a threaded fitment in the design that allows the user to wear the device like a vest shouldering the weight evenly across their shoulders.

The key to this item is simplicity. It’s a demonstration of “appropriate technology.” Not cutting edge technology, but technology that the people understand. In designing for this type of market the intent is to provide a tool that is easily modified by the users to adapt to their specific needs.

Our beta testing of the vest is being done in Ethiopia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Burundi. There are various NGOs that are testing the vest with their projects. Initial feedback is very positive and the initial concept seems to be useful in all test locations. The derivative benefits from this small change will be the real benefit. People will have access to clean water, infectious diseases will be less of an issue, and overall health will improve.

The vest is a product of several packaging professionals donating their time and experience to a project that attempts to bring packaging technology to populations not currently the focus of packaging innovations. There is a common feeling in our industry that packaging technologies are not fully understood or appreciated by the general population, and that lay people mostly view packaging as a negative element of modern society. The team’s common belief was to change this perception.

The material is designed and produced by Cincinnati-based ProAmpac, whose Sal Pellingra, VP of Innovation and Technology, is a member of the Fritz Water Vest team. Manufacturing is performed by Russ Smith of Heritage Packaging of Victor, NY. The marketing and beta testing of the vest is being headed by Eric Steigelman of Bonfire wines, and Michael Robinson, a Senior Industrial Designer at Colgate Palmolive. Fritz Yambrach, Professor and Director of Packaging at San Jose State University, is the concept designer and team organizer.

Fritz Water Vest is a product produced and distributed by Solutions, a Non-Profit company that utilizes current packaging technologies and attempts to create products that improve the quality of life for all people in the world. www.fritzwatervest.org.

Fritz Yambrach (fritz.yambrach@sjsu.edu) is Director of Packaging at San Jose State University.

Editor’s Note: Ordinarily the goal in this space each month is to bring readers a view of some aspect of packaging through the lens of academia. But recently we learned of the Fritz Water Vest, developed by one of our regular contributors to the Academic Angle column. So we felt it would be a good thing to use this space to make readers more aware of this clever and potentially life-saving idea.

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