What does a package do? It contains, protects, transports, and identifies what’s inside it. That’s the neat, four-cornered functional description of a package. Here are some edgier ones—and a couple that don’t have edges at all:

• A Swedish design studio called Tomorrow Machine has come up with This Too Shall Pass, a series of packages meant to decompose and biodegrade within the same short time frame as the perishable food products they hold. The packaging materials are agar, seaweed, caramelized sugar, and beeswax. They all return to the biosphere—nothing goes to the landfill.

• Do you drink a container of water, or do you eat it? A trio of visionary design students in Spain asked themselves, why not both? They’ve made this possible, or at least possible to consider, with the “Ooho!” water package, which encloses a serving of H2O in a membrane of edible algae. The idea is to quaff the water, then savor and swallow the membrane. In this way, billions of plastic bottles come out of the recycling equation (theoretically, anyway).

Ideo, a well-known idea factory, runs an internal project called Designs On as an incubator for innovation in selected areas of human activity. A project focused on packaging offers 18 examples of how packages can be made to do better what they already do well. There’s the pharmaceutical container that gets blotchy like an overripe banana when the medicine inside reaches its expiration date. How about rice sacks reimagined as stylish handbags and backpacks? Or a nearly impossible to open, single-serve cigarette pack offered as an aid to quitting? You get the Ideo.

• Nobody has made cleverer use of simple folds and perforations than the inventors of the GreenBox, a corrugated carton that “saves the environment, one pizza box at a time” by breaking down into serving plates and a container for leftover slices. Here’s what happened last month when the inventors brought their ingenious adaptation of a commonplace package design before the judges of Shark Tank in hope of securing a $300,000 investment.

• Dennis Salazar, president and co-founder of Salazar Packaging Inc., had sustainability in mind when he invented the Globe Guard® Reusable Box, a corrugated container that can be reconfigured for a return trip after it has been received and emptied of its contents. He has also devised the Globe Guard Reusable Box Sealer, a slide-on fastener that lets boxes do double (or triple or quadruple) duty without the need to re-tape them or refold their corners.

Now, what’s that expression we keep hearing about thinking outside the something-or-other?