The Packaging of Our Lives

 Why must everything come in packaging that’s seemingly ready-made for nuclear meltdown?

The clamshell isn’t finished, but perhaps it has met its match in the flesh-eating Pyranna, a wrap rage coping tool with teeth to cut ridiculously over-packaged goods. Evidently, manufacturers are more focused on anti-theft and cost saving plastic than consumer convenience. We are especially reminded of the wasteful abundance when seeing the hordes of back-to-school shoppers lining up at Office Depot with carts of protractors and mechanical pencils housed in impossible chambers of reconstituted petroleum – which includes anything related to a computer, music device or phone.

Instead of weapons for assaulting a plastic seal with the zeal of man eating fish, how about an industry wide replacement of wasteful packaging with containers that let us get to the goods without wrenching our necks, as I once did with an envelope of sliced turkey on a lunch break. Who knew fowl dangers lurked beyond the occasional Cargill Inc. bird?

I’m ashamed to admit I find myself at times relying on my teeth like some kind of primitive cave babe, emulating the piranha to no avail as the kid looks on with disdain.

We all curse those hermetically sealed ester-oysters that seem immune to ripping and stabbing, the ones that send well intentioned consumers to the emergency room for gashes, sliced fingertips and severed tendons. As we seek more responsible and sustainable packaging technology, it doesn’t appear to yet be a priority of the manufacturing world, which instead focuses on anti-theft measures at the lowest possible cost.

“History shows consumers will pay for convenience and if you eliminate difficulty opening packages at the same time you reduce the amount of package materials consumed in manufacturing, you’re winning on multiple fronts,” observes Bill Perell, whose company, PopPack, offers manufacturers an eco-friendly, Bubble-in-the-Seal® solution, a seal alternative engineered to give consumers, especially kids and seniors a break. Perell’s own father, a surgeon, resorts to a medical knife to cut his way through products.

His methodology of popping eliminates both challenging cartons, caps and wasteful tabs. “We did a study of Kellogg and General Mills and weighed the film tab on the cereal boxes and it is a third of an ounce and in the aggregate that creates a lot of waste,” he says.

The following is our list of the worst offenders.

Item: Audio CDs

Best Tool: Open Smart – One of several teethy tools on the market for slicing CD shrink wrap.

Solution: There are still people who have not learned about iTunes? Help these poor souls.

Item: Sauce Packets

Best Tool: Common, newly sharpened scissors  – which you may or may not have with you when eating sushi on the run.

One of the downsides to getting sushi to go is wrestling with those sauce packets which are torture unless you can find the sweet spot that may or may not indicate you should “tear here.”

Solution: Opt for sustainable sushi splurges prepared fresh at your nearest Japanese restaurant.

Item: Sliced Packaged Cheese

Those sealed 36-packs of cheddar are impossible without a pair of sharp scissors handy, so if you drag these to that family reunion picnic, better bring sharp scissors. This container is only rivaled by string cheese packets.

Best Tool: Sharp scissors

Solution: High quality cheeses from the local natural foods store or farmers’ market wrapped in wax paper or less plastic. It’s really not so hard to slice, is it? Certainly easier than getting those string cheese packs open.

Item: Oral B Electric Toothbrush

No one gets a charge out of trying desperately to crack open these packages to simply brush your teeth with that new dentist-recommended tool. Gillette opted for the ridiculously stiff plastic clamshells, but Procter &  Gamble has since created a cardboard box alternative. Arthritis sufferers must be overjoyed to be able to get to the product at last.

Best Tool: Sharp scissors

Solution: A standard tooth brush works just fine for most pearly whites. Go for a recycled plastic variety.

Item: Green Light Bulbs

It’s just so counterintuitive when you need to order a tool from Amazon to open your green light bulb. The light is on but nobody is home at the factory, as it were.

Best Tool: Zipit battery operated device from Amazon

Solution: How about simple recycled cardboard like the housing for the conventional bulbs?

Item: The Common Computer Mouse

Whether wireless or for the desktop PC, it shouldn’t be this hard to get to the mouse. The trap? The ubiquitous clamshell requiring tearing and cutting.

Best tool: Zipit battery operated device from Amazon or Pyranna

Solution: Bribe a child to open it.

Item: All Natural Frontier Sea Salt

So what could be so daunting about this little shaker of fine grind? The grinder is a nightmare, composed of a thick rim of impenetrable plastic with a small hole that must be punctured with anything but the human body. Jeez, I just wanted to flavor my chard.

Best tool: A sharp little knife, a steady hand and accurate eye

Solution: Luck.

Image: Pyranna; Amazon; Pink Moose; Peyri: Costco; Oral B: Zipitopener, dylancantwell, nioxxe, espensorvik

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.