Unpackaging frustrations

A quarter of a year has gone by since the last post, and if I wait until I have time to write the usual length, then it will probably be another quarter or more. So here’s a quick groan.

Packaging: well, it’s probably such a common complaint that no one bothers reading about packaging any more. I notice I have bag full of plastic packaging each week, plus a box of paper ‘waste’, much of it packaging material. This compares with one bin bag (not full) in a month. This reflects oddly on our material society. Most of what we purchase is packaging. So I wonder: how many jobs does the packaging industry create, and how many billions does it generate?

The answers are easy to find: 5 million jobs worldwide, and $500 billion yearly (packaging statistics). And then I was even one of them for a short while when I worked in paper and packaging research.

But the packaging industry seems to be motivated by self-generation. Witness all the electronic goods that are packed carefully inside a box with extensive rigid paperboard to prevent any shift in transport. And then the box gets packed inside another box. And perhaps wrapped in paper on the outside, and even a plastic outer protector, like Russian dolls. Matryoshkas have a lot to answer formatryoschka.

When you get your package, you struggle for what seems like half the morning trying to puzzle out how to get inside it – to get to the only object you really wanted. Maybe you take radical solutions out of impatience: grab the Stanley knife, or the scissors. The tiny memory stick comes in A4 size cardboard packaging sealed in unbreakable polyurethane thermoplastic that has you reaching for diamond-tipped electric saw.

So when confronted by the impenetrable packaging strangling the socks I had bought, I seized the scissors in frustration – and cut through the socks! Well, I added value to the packaging industry’s $500 billion, while accruing no value added to myself.

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