Starre Vartan

Egregious Packaging Hall of Shame: Electronics Packaging!

by , 09/20/10

eco packaging, green packaging, plastic clamshell packaging, clamshell packaging, electronics packaging, packaging rage, sustainable design, green design, packaging the future, green packaging, frustration-free packaging, green materials, alternative packaging design

If there’s one thing that non-greenies and enviro-heroes can agree on, it’s that the way that most electronics (and their concomitant accessories, additional parts and hardware) are packaged is really, really annoying. We’ve all had the experience of purchasing a shiny (or matte, if that’s your thing) new piece of technological wonderfulness and having a devil of a time getting to our new toy. Whether ensconced inside a plastic clamshell that seems to be welded shut, or enveloped in layer after layer after layer (after layer) of cardboard and styrofoam, it seems like we’re not ever supposed to get to the goods. And contrary to what manufacturers would have you believe, all that stuff is NOT necessary; good packaging design can — and does — eliminate both the frustration and the waste involved in protecting a product from theft, breakage, overheating, or exposure to the elements.

sustainable design, green design, packaging the future, green packaging, frustration-free packaging, green materials, alternative packaging designPhoto © Robert S. Donovan

Wasteful, inefficient and ineffective packaging is such a nuisance that the NYTimes recently covered the trials and tribulations of the person who oversees the topic at Amazon.com. Coining a new term, “Packaging rage,” the article went on to explain how some sellers are working to create ‘frustration-free‘ versions of boxes and containers. (This ‘rage’ isn’t exactly uncommon: I experienced it recently when I bought a new pair of headphones — not exactly the world’s most delicate piece of tech — and I was unable to open the package in my car on the way to the gym, despite hacking at the plastic with a metal fork, my keys, and my teeth. Smacking it on my car’s dash did little to help the situation, and that’s when I realized I was totally annoyed.)

Not only is extra packaging wasteful and annoying, but it can be dangerous too (OK, not exactly life-threatening, but still). As NYTimes reader ybmagpye commented on their message boards, “I tried opening fused clamshell packaging and couldn’t cut the damned thing open with scissors. So I grabbed the sharpest knife I have and 30 minutes later I was sitting in an emergency room, waiting for several stitches to my left thumb. The knife slipped and tore through the base of my thumb. I have the scar to prove it : I HATE plastic packaging!”

sustainable design, green design, packaging the future, green packaging, frustration-free packaging, green materials, alternative packaging designPhoto © Paul Reynolds

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8 Comments

  1. Egregious Packaging Hal... October 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

    [...] true. One of the places I’ve continually heard that styrofoam can’t be replaced is in packaging for computers and electronics, and furniture. These items become worthless, or nearly so, if even minorly chipped or broken. [...]

  2. Top 5 Green Gadgets for... September 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    [...] of gadgets, however today’s guy can be easily beleaguered by unnecessary or poorly-conceived tech — which all too often finds its way into landfills. Great green design for guys has to hit a [...]

  3. burnduck September 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Apple did shrink it’s package size of macbooks, but unfortunately the white boxes themselves are packed in the same old carton box as they have shrinked it before, maybe they are using less paper on the boxes, but are they helping much with CO2 emitted with transportation? I don’t think so.

  4. h0va September 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

    calling out apple? really? i know it feels good to call out the one people love, but it\’s close to misinformation to neglect mentioning that the computer inside the box is predominantly glass and aluminum – maybe dell has trendy bamboo boxes, but how recyclable is their nasty plastic computer? also – you might want to use an iphone photo that is up to date.

  5. French Wine Vending Mac... September 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    [...] come with a high carbon price tag, to reduce their footprint as well as to cut down on material packaging. The reduction in mass also means that the wine can be shipped much more efficiently, better [...]

  6. Diane Pham Diane Pham September 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    couldn’t agree more. clamshells are practically a health hazard!

  7. Jill Fehrenbacher September 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Clamshells and blister-packs are the worst! Amazing article Starre – you’ve echoed here what many of us feel. Keep ‘em coming!

  8. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda September 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’ve even seen brands selling “eco” electronics over package. It’s the worst when a press person sends you a “green” product for review and it’s packaged in 10 layers of cardboard and plastic.

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