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.
Photo © 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!”
Photo © Paul Reynolds