So tell me, how many of you have struggled with those frustrating sealed plastic containers for ink cartridges or memory cards? I have cut myself on those stupid things; they package something in two square feet of plastic for two square inches! Or how about the excessive packing on software? You sometimes get this box about 8″w X 12″h X 2″d that folds in the middle, all this for something that is in a plastic case inside that is only 5″ theyX5″! There are other examples I am sure you can think of, like toy packaging, how many of you have spent over half an hour trying to get a toy out of its package! So tell me, how many of you have struggled with those frustrating sealed plastic containers for ink cartridges or memory cards? I have cut myself on those stupid things; they package something in two square feet of plastic for two square inches! Or how about the excessive packing on software? You sometimes get this box about 8″w X 12″h X 2″d that folds in the middle, all this for something that is in a plastic case inside that is only 5″ theyX5″! There are other examples I am sure you can think of, like toy packaging, how many of you have spent over half an hour trying to get a toy out of its package!
To give you real reasons for all the excessive packaging is twofold. One of the retailers in the store wants you to see it and sell it to you. If it were only two square inches, you would not see it, and they wouldn’t sell it. The package is what sells the item for the retailer; it is all advertising space! You pick up a software box, and that is where they try to sell it to you, you read it, you like it, you buy it. The second reason is a bit of mental psychology. You mentally feel better walking up to the till with a bigger package than with a two-inch square package that costs $199.99. That is how we have been programmed over the years; bigger is better. There is a third reason for the retailer, which is a sad reality for them, theft. How easy would it be to slip that little memory card into your pocket or hide it in another package if it was only two inches square?
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Well, if we consider the impact of all this on the environment, it is huge. Most of that packaging ends up in landfills, and most of it will be discovered by archeologists 200 years from now (if we are still here). Most of the materials used are oil-based chemicals that don’t break down easily. We are attempting to recycle this stuff in many places, and there are a few success stories. Unfortunately, most of this plastic is just stockpiled or just incinerated. In the city of Hamilton in Canada, we had a terrible fire at one of these so-called recycle plants. It burned for days, and the surrounding area was evacuated. I am sure there are events of this nature happening in other places.
The real solution to this is to reduce the packaging, where internet retail companies can really help. They do all the selling for the product on the website; if you, the buyer, want to know if the product is what you want, then read about it online. This eliminates the big boxes with all the advertising on them trying to sell you the product. You, the buyer, can sit at home and read all about the product, read the reviews, and make an informed decision. The internet company can reduce the packaging because you have already been convinced and purchased the product. The buyer will feel good even if the package is small because they have made an informed decision and helped reduce waste. The internet company can reduce its shipping cost and probably reduce the space required for inventory. Internet retailers should not have to worry about the theft of small packages since they do not have customers wandering through their stores physically. The ripple effects of this can go a long way!
The internet retailer can then request this reduced packaging from the manufacturers. The manufacturers should make two sets of packaging, one for the retail stores and one for the internet retailers. The manufacturers would save money on their packing costs and shipping. Since much of the packaging materials are oil-based, the savings can be significant; the oil price is not coming down! Speaking of the oil price, this also gives a large benefit of reduced emissions from our vehicles; you didn’t have to drive anywhere to get that product.
The Internet software retailers are already doing good service in this by downloading programs straight from the internet. This is a great way to reduce packaging, and the buyer gets to use the product immediately; I have done this myself. It is great. This can also be done for games, music, and movies; anything digital can be purchase in this manner. This doesn’t just reduce packaging. It eliminates it! Another area is in the newspaper and magazine industry. People are going to internet news sites and ezines for their information in the millions now; this reduces paper waste by the ton! We have even seen some pulp and paper mills close, and part of this is because of reduced newspaper and magazine purchases. Pulp and paper mills are some of the biggest polluters in the world, so that doesn’t break my heart.
The internet can be a great place to help the environment. Count the ways:
1. Reduced packaging creating less waste in the landfills.
2. Elimination of packaging by direct downloading of products to your computer.
3. Reduced emissions from driving from store to store. Less air pollution and less global warming.
4. Reduced paper waste.
5. Less warehouse space means less heating and air conditioning required. Reduced emissions again.
6. Less demand for oil-based packaging reduces the requirement for petrol/chemical refineries. The price of oil may drop due to reduced demand.
7. Possible reduction in building retail malls (it is an epidemic eyesore). Leave more green space for all of us.