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

Ever wonder how much the packaging waste in the products you buy really costs? The amount of materials that we 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?



recyle image 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 raise standards of living, more countries are seeing significant growth in their packaging waste.

Currently, 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. 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.

Packaging Waste Woes - Over Done and Outlandish



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

  • To fight shoplifting, which costs retailers more than $11 billion dollars every year, clamshell packages are designed so that 'human hands' have great difficulty separating the backing and cover, according to a 2003 patent on them.

  • The global packaging market is worth an estimated $429 billion dollars.

  • Armed with scissors and box cutters, it took Consumer Reports testers more than 3 minutes to open the Oral B Sonic Complete toothbrush from its exterior.

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

  • Over the last years, Sam’s Club began selling milk in stackable plastic jugs with a smaller energy footprint. It cut the price of a gallon of milk by at least 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 and nearly half of the consumer’s worldwide said they’d sacrifice convenience for more environmentally friendlier packaging.

  • "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.

  • Today Amazon offers the service for fewer than 100 products.

  • Sony’s Memory Stick Pro Duo, comes in a package that’s 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 a year.

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

  • A 2008 bill written by Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) would have required the EPA to find ways to reduce packaging waste by 30 percent in 10 years. The bill died with no cosponsors.

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

  • After 99 percent of her readers said that packages were getting harder 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.'

  • Last year, clamshell packages sent more than 5,700 American’s to the emergency room.

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

  • Holiday packaging waste prompted a British mall to hire a mathematician to devise a formula for using the least amount of gift wrap. The big secret? 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. (Now there’s a smart guy!)

  • Nearly 1/3 of American’s waste is packaging material. A mere 43 percent is recycled after use.

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

  • 65 percent of adults asked, said that they would drink wine from a box or pouch, but 61 percent drew the line in the sand at wine in a can.

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

  • American’s annually, buy enough plastic wrap to cover Texas.

  • Frito Lay has a line of gift wraps, pencil cases, and totes made form old Cheetos and Doritos bags.

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

  • 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 cartons. They said that milk in plastic was ‘cool’ and ‘fun to drink’ whereas milk in cartons was just plain ‘old fashioned’.

  • The USDA (hard at work again!) has developed an edible food wrap. A researcher 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 real plastic packages that emit smells to increase shoppers ‘in store awareness’ of the products inside it.

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

  • In 2005, a coroner’s office in Washington state said it planned to buy a machine costing $50,000 to shrink wrap bodies in case of a 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 carried.'

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

  • Sales of single serving snack packs grew by 28% in 2006. On average, these smaller packages cost 2% times more per ounce than the regular products in larger boxes.

  • Presliced and wrapped fruits and veggies cost up to 45% more than buying the whole thing.

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

  • One online recipe for making your own calorie conscious Cheetos, suggests mixing biodegradable packing peanuts with cheese powder and salt.

  • In 2008, Tropicana downsized it’s 96 ounce juice jug but not it’s price. Tropicana responded 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.

    More Packaging Waste Dilemmas

    If your daughter has been wanting the newest Barbie, American Idol doll, you might want to break out your knives, scissors, waste baskets, and a lot of patience in advance of the holidays. You'll need them to unpack this doll!

  • There are 435 inches of cardboard outside the box.

  • There are 385 inches of cardboard in the box.

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

  • Roughly 45 inches of wire encase the item.

  • You'll find at least 30 pieces of tape to hold the contents.

  • There are 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.

    Wired.com had an article about clamshell (or Oyster) packaging that caught my attention. Consumer Reports got in on the act and named a tongue-in-cheek honor award after them called the Oyster Awards, which was given to the most difficult to open product.

    John Zittrauer, a sales spokesperson for Best Buy, admits that clamshells 'are a lot of times a pain to get open. But it's a tough line to walk to make things not easily accessible for theft protection before purchase and easy to open after purchase.'

    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? Not a chance!



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