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interesting read on plastic packaging

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    Below is an article I came across - Retailers are looking for alternatives and enviromentally friendly packaging

    Plastic packaging on the way out

    The Pyranna, the Jokari Deluxe, the Insta Slit, the ZipIt and the OpenIt need to apply blades and batteries to what should be a simple task: opening a retail package.


    But the maddening – and nearly impenetrable – plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes.

    “With the instability in petroleum-based materials, people said we need an alternative to the clamshell,” said Jeff Kellogg, vice president for consumer electronics and security packaging at the packaging company MeadWestvaco. Companies are scuttling plastic of all kinds wherever they can. Target has removed the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts, has redesigned packages for some light bulbs to eliminate plastic, and is selling socks held together by paper bands rather than in plastic bags.

    Wal-Mart, which has pledged to reduce its packaging by 5 per cent between 2008 and 2013, has pushed suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers, and made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones to cut down on plastic use. At Home Depot, Husky tools are going from clamshell to paperboard packaging, and EcoSmart LED bulbs are about to be sold in a corrugated box, rather than a larger plastic case.

    Shoppers have complained that clamshells are a literal pain, and environmentalists have denounced them as wasteful. To save money and address complaints, retailers and manufacturers started minimising packaging in the e-commerce sphere a few years ago.

    Amazon, for example, introduced a “frustration-free packaging” initiative in 2008 intended to defuse wrap rage and be more eco-friendly.

    “As a guy in packaging, I get all the questions – there’s nothing worse than going to a cocktail party where someone’s asking why they can’t get into their stuff,” said Ronald Sasine, the senior director for packaging procurement at Wal-Mart. “I’ve heard over the years, ‘How come I need a knife to get into my knife?’ ‘How come I need a pair of scissors to get into my kid’s birthday present?”

    But reducing packaging is complicated in physical stores. The packaging has to sell the product, with explanatory text, bright colours or catchy graphics. Retailers lost about 1.44 per cent of sales to theft in 2009, the latest numbers available, according to the National Retail Federation. “Clamshells actually served that purpose really well for the last 20 or 30 years,” Kellogg said.

    A byproduct

    “Plastic packaging is a byproduct of a byproduct, and we don’t represent enough volume to counteract the industry,” Sasine said. “We get dictated by things like petroleum pricing, natural gas pricing, home heating oil.” And during and after the recession, as retailers’ sales dropped, stores started looking to cut costs in imaginative ways.

    With the interest in alternatives to so much plastic, MeadWestvaco took a tamper-evident cardboard sheet it originally supplied for pharmaceutical trials, added a clear laminate that prevented tearing, and stuck two sheets of the cardboard together. It put a cutout in the middle, and added a plastic bubble formed to a specific product, like a Swiss Army knife or a Kodak camera.MeadWestvaco says the package reduces plastic by 60 per cent, on average, versus the clamshell version for a given product. It also is lighter by 30 per cent, which cuts down on transportation costs
 
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