Packaging Waste – A Throw Away Society Tossing Earth Out of Orbit!

Ever wonder how much packaging waste materials cost buyers? The amount of materials that humans throw away is unconscionable.

There are plastic shrink wraps, wires, clamshells, styrofoam shells, packaging popcorn, boxes, tape and many other materials that companies use to keep their products safe. The question is have they gone too far?

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Besides from the fact that when you buy a product, you’re actually paying more for them because of the over abundance of outside wrapping, many people get hurt every year taking products out of them. I can faintly hear the cries of early morning Christmas rage, when mom and dad are trying to unwrap their child’s favorite toys!

In most parts of the developed world, packaging waste constitutes as much as one-third of the non-industrial solid waste stream. As the developing world races to higher standards of living, more countries are seeing significant growth in their packaging waste.

At least 28 countries have laws designed to encourage reduced packaging and greater recycling of packaging discards. Many countries also require manufacturers to take back packaging discards or pay a hefty price for their recycling.

We have become a throw-away society - even though it's largely the governments fault for allowing it!

Advances in technology, scientific discoveries, and easy ways to patent new ideas, have become our threshold for the over packaging dilemma. Keeping products safer (in shipments and in stores), was the forefront of the newer packaging designs, however with new advances comes new responsibilities.

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Packaging Waste In America

  • Annual trash for all Americans is 254 million tons.

  • Each year, 22 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash

  • Nearly 10 percent of a product’s price is for the packaging waste it’s in.

  • To fight shoplifting, (which costs retailers more than billion$ every year), clamshell packages are designed so they're hard to open.

  • The global packaging market estimated to be worth $429 billion dollars.

  • It took Consumer Reports testers 3+ minutes to open the Oral B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit from its exterior, even though they were given scissors and box cutters.

  • If every family reused the wrapping from at least 3 gifts each year, it would save enough paper to cover 50,000 football fields.

  • Sam’s Club decided to test the market and began selling gallon milk in stackable plastic jugs with a smaller energy footprint, which incidentally cut the price 20 cents. Consumers however, complained that the milk spilled too easily.

  • 33 percent of American’s said that they seek alternatives to over packaged goods. Nearly half of the consumer’s worldwide said they’d sacrifice convenience to reduce packaging waste.

  • "I shouldn’t have to start off Christmas morning with a needle nose pliers and wire cutters", said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as his company starting selling products in easy to open, "Frustration Free Packaging" last November. However, today Amazon offers the service for fewer than 100 products.

  • The package for Sony’s Memory Stick Pro Duo is almost 50 percent larger than the product.

  • About one fourth of the weight of a military Ready to Eat Meal, is packaging. These ready to eat meals (called MRES) generate 14,000 tons of waste yearly.

  • Apple shipped its latest operating system in boxes that were nearly 16 times larger than the DVD case within the box.

  • In 2008, Anthony Weiner (D-NY) wrote a bill that would have required the EPS to reduce packaging waste by 30 percent in 10 years. The bill died on the floor.

  • In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 millions tons of packaging. That’s 520 pounds per person and a 71 percent hike from 1961!

  • After 99 percent of her readers said that packages were too hard to open, the editor of a British magazine for senior citizens complained that 'Hard to open packaging isn’t just a dangerous nuisance, it discriminates against the weak.'

  • Yearly clamshell packages send more than 5,700 American’s to the ER.

  • In May 2008, Sony announced 'Death to the Clamshell' which included a video of a man getting impaled by a package of headphones.

  • Holiday packaging waste prompted a British mall to hire a mathematician to create a formula that used the least amount of wrapping paper. The big secret he revealed? The wrapping paper should be longer than the length of the gift. Its width should be just a little more than the width and depth. (It took a mathematician to come up with this?)

  • Nearly 1/3 of American’s trash is packaging waste. Only 43 percent is recycled after use.

  • Pentagon researchers said that by converting over packaging waste into fuel, military units could become energy self-sufficient.

  • 65 percent of adults asked, said that they would drink wine from a box, but 61 percent said they'd refuse to drink wine out of a can.

  • Three to five year old children are 3 times more likely to eat Chicken McNuggets from a McDonald’s wrapper than from a plain one.

  • American’s buy enough plastic wrap to cover Texas every year.

  • Frito Lay designed it's line of products; gift wraps, pencil cases, and totes; made form old Cheetos and Doritos plastic bags.

  • In 2005, the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The curator claimed that 'Packaging is something that’s accessible to kids'.

  • NXT Shave Gel comes in a battery operated blue plastic container with an LED light that illuminates air bubbles suspended in gel. The NY Times described it as a miniature lava lamp.

  • More than 80 percent of kids surveyed said they preferred plastic milk in bottles over paper milk cartons. Reason? The kids said they viewed plastic to be "cool" and cartons to be "old school style".

  • The USDA (hard at work again! - NOT!) has developed an edible food wrapper. One of their researchers said "Imagine apple film wrapped pork chops that go from the refrigerator to the stove, where the film melts into an apple glaze!"

  • ScentSational Technologies makes scent-enhanced plastic packages to increase shopper awareness of the product inside it.

  • Sales of Patagonia underwear climbed 30 percent after it removed the packaging around it.

  • In 2005, a coroner’s office in Washington state planned to buy a machine costing $50,000 designed to shrink-wrap bodies in case of disaster or terrorist attack.

  • Bling H20 comes in a corked bottle that’s adorned with Swarovski crystals. Its creator said that 'You can tell a lot about a person by the type of bottled water they carry.'

  • Spotted in Senator Harry Reids office: one of Fiji Water’s prized silver plated 'Signature Sleeves', fashioned to hold the square shaped bottle.

  • The amount of garbage that Americans are now recycling yearly is 34.3 percent. In 2013, recycling and composting prevented 87.2 million tons of material from being disposed of - an increase of 15 million tons in 1980.

  • Sales of single serving snack packs grew by 28 percent in 2006. These smaller, more convenient packages are estimated to cost 2 percent more per ounce than the regular products in larger sizes.

  • Presliced fruits cost up to 45 percent more than buying the whole fruit.

  • In 2008, when the inventor of the Pringles Potato Chips can died, some of his ashes were interred in one of his potato chip cans.

  • Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, American families produce more than one million tons of extra garbage weekly.

  • One online recipe suggested mixing biodegradable packing peanuts with cheese powder and salt to make your own low-calorie Cheetos.

  • In 2008, Tropicana downsized it’s 96 ounce juice jug without reducing the price. Tropicana supported their decision by saying that it would 'add value' and mean 'less gurgling'.

  • Last year, over 600,000 people injured themselves trying to open a clamshell package. Of those, 2000 had to be hospitalized.

  • John Zittrauer, a sales spokesperson for Best Buy, admits that clamshells 'are a pain to get open. But claimed it was necessary to make things harder to steal.

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    One Extreme Case of Packaging Waste

    The American Idol Barbie doll comes with a plethora of packaging waste. It includes:
  • 435 inches of cardboard outside the box.

  • 385 inches of cardboard in the box.

  • 580 inches of plastic, not counting the doll and accessories.

  • 45 inches of wire to encase the item.

  • 30 pieces of tape to hold the contents.

  • five rubber bands.

    Total pieces of wrapping? 55

    Time to unwrap? You'll need at least 25 minutes.

    Tools used: Scissors, box cutter, tweezers, hands, teeth.

    The UK alone produces more than 170 million tonnes of waste per year, much of which is food packaging waste. Some trash is toxic and some never degrades. It can take 450 years for some types of plastic bottle to break down. However, bottles that contain PET, doesn’t biodegrade at all - yet only one third of plastic packaging is recycled. The real problem is that we never actually discard anything - it's just transferred somewhere else.

    If you think that packaging waste has become a big problem, consider how the elderly or small children feel when they get home with a new product but can't open it. Packaging waste is a problem that needs to disappear with the clamshell wraps. Better tags to cut down on shoplifting and more time allotted for employees to deliver goods at the UPS, USPS, and other shipping industries are also good ideas. Happen anytime soon? No way!

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