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October 20, 2015

Modern packaging: Seriously!?

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Jim Champion [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Why is the world so full of discarded plastic? Well, aside from people not bothering to dispose of their waste properly, is consumerism and capitalism to blame?

In just a single example, much of the software one can purchase nowadays is nothing more than a glorified piece of paper with a shiny code on it or a single CD packed away in an ostensibly useless box that will likely end up in a landfill (if we're lucky) or floating down a river or piled on the side of the road (if we're not). That piece of paper or CD could have been sold in an envelope creating less than a third of the waste the entire box would result in.

Kaspersky-Antivirus-Packaging More-Kaspersky-Antivirus-Packaging Even-More-Kaspersky-Antivirus-Packaging
While I am using a box from Kaspersky as an example, the complaint applies to all kinds of software. Sometimes you are even only purchasing a little license on a piece of paper and you need to go home and download the software anyway. And electrical items in double-sided plastic containers? Single batteries?

I understand that packaging is an important part of a manufacturer's brand and reputation, of a consumer's 'freedom of choice' in selecting particular brands, and also aids in the import and export of products. But with all the calls for 'Reuse! Recycle!' coming from retailers the world over, why do they not make it easier for us to purchase items without the requisite wasteful packaging? What will the retailers and food bars of the world say if I arrived with my Tupperware to fill it with my order instead of allowing them to pack it away in a polystyerene box? To be fair, I suspect some of them would gladly fill my Tupperware, but it's neither convenient for us to carry our own packaging around with us nor would it be possible because the company needs to brand its product and prevent theft. The convenience of it all is reflected by the fact that most people still purchase carry bags from shops even though they're around 21c each now.

Nevermind that as consumers, aside from possibly carrying around our own packaging, we are forced to purchase practically all items packaged in layers upon layers of card and plastic. Just one shopping outing for the basics will result in thrown-away packaging for every single item you've purchased.

In addition to this, most products are not manufactured locally, meaning they have to be packaged for their own protection otherwise they have no value. This value placed on something that does not truly exist is a reflection of our capitalist society, where 'money talks', and what we purchase supposedly speaks volumes on how much self-respect and status we have and it is not important how much waste we create as we go about our days. So we purchase our prepackaged items to package ourselves in packaging we shall one day also discard as we repackage ourselves according to a new brand.

Thus it is this interaction between being a consumer and living in a capitalist society that has turned us all into wasteful creatures who only think about convenience and ease instead of what we are leaving behind for the future.

{Top image credit: Jim Champion [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

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