Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Excellent article: Aboxalypse Now - Overpackaging

[Note: With regard to food, eating raw food eliminates the need for most packaging.]

Aboxalypse Now
Overpackaging, killer clamshells, and other common triggers of wrap rage.
By Elizabeth Gettelman

Nearly 10% of a typical product's price is for packaging.

The global packaging market is worth $429 billion.

Nearly 1/3 of Americans' waste [1] is packaging. Just 43% is recycled after use.

In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 million tons of packaging—520 pounds per person. That's a 71% increase from 1960.

A 2008 bill written by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) [2] would have required the EPA to find ways to reduce packaging waste by 30% in a decade. It died with no cosponsors.

35% of Americans say that they seek alternatives to excessively packaged goods, and nearly 1/2 of consumers worldwide say they'd sacrifice convenience for more environmentally sustainable packaging.

Last summer, Sam's Club began selling milk in a stackable plastic jug with a smaller energy footprint. It cut the price of a gallon by as much as 20 cents, but consumers complained that it spilled too easily.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, Americans produce more than 1 million tons of additional garbage per week.

If every family reused the wrapping from 3 gifts, it would save enough paper to cover 50,000 football fields.

Holiday waste [3] prompted a British mall to hire a mathematician to devise a formula for using the least gift wrap. The big secret: The wrapping paper should be a little longer than the length of the gift. Its width should be just a little more than the sum of the gift's width and depth.

"I shouldn't have to start each Christmas morning with a needle-nose pliers and wire cutters," said Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos as his company started selling products in easy-to-open, "Frustration-Free Packaging" last November.

A year later, Amazon offers the service for fewer than 100 products.

To fight shoplifting, which costs retailers more than $11 billion a year, clamshell packages are designed so that "human hands have great difficulty separating the backing and cover," according to a 2003 patent.


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