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Is excess packaging out of control?

Alice Judd in a box

Recently, I ordered two tubes of cat treats and two fairly modest cat toys. It arrived in a box I could sit in with enough plastic padding to make a polar bear weep. Has the world gone mad with excess packaging?

As comic as this picture may be, excess packaging is a major problem. It uses energy and natural resources to produce and once we’ve got it, it can be very hard to get rid of.

Sure, I can recycle my giant box (not that that’s much comfort to the trees it took to make it) but we could be stuck with that plastic padding for several hundred years.

I’m not alone in worrying about this. When we asked Which? members to send photos of things they thought were over-packaged we got images of everything from flowers to print cartridges.

We’ve embedded a gallery of the photos we’ve been sent so far and if you have any examples please send them to helpwanted@which.co.uk and put ‘excess packaging’ as the title. We’ll continue to publish the worst ones.

Who do you think is responsible for excess packaging? Shops or manufacturers? Do you think excessive packaging misleads us about the size of certain products?

Comments
Guest
Sheila Wilson says:
10 September 2010

Well, it is obvious why they sent the big box-it is for your cat to play in with the toys!
When my cat receives her jars of cat treats via the internet, she is always disappointed that the box is too small for her to sit and play in!
I agree though that all that plastic packaging is completely unacceptable.

Guest

Yes, a cat’s love for the box is best illustrated by Simon’s Cat –

Guest
Sophie Gilbert says:
10 September 2010

The photo is the best illustration of overpackaging I have ever seen. Well done! And like Musset said, “lorsque l’on vient d’en rire il faudrait en pleurer.” When you have just laughed about it, you should cry about it.

And do something. Whoever is responsible should be tackled about this misleading practice. My guess is that manufacturers are more responsible than anyone else.

Guest

I once received a RAM memory chip in a similar sized box from CPC Farnell at work (NHS)

Not only that – but NHS stores took all the packaging out to check it and then the anti-static envelope too.

I got a tiny static sensitive RAM stick rattling around in the box.
It actually worked too!

Guest

Totally agree with everything above. The only plus, for me, is that bubble wrap is expensive to buy and I’m quite pleased when someone sends me lots of it ready for Christmas and birthdays. Plastic chips also come in handy for the lucky dip stall but there are substitutes that are less wasteful.

Guest
Sheila Wilson says:
12 September 2010

I love the Simon’s Cat in ‘The Box’ cartoon! It is so lifelike and funny. I have saved it as a Youtube favourite and will definitely show it to my cat 🙂

Guest

Just been reading about how Sainsbury’s is facing court action due to over-packaging on a joint of beef. Not only is it vacuum-packed, it also has a plastic tray, lid and printed cardboard sleeve! Will be interesting to see the outcome as Sainsbury’s is insisting it has set an ‘industry-leading target’ to cut packaging by a third by 2015.
While it’s really important that retailers make a massive effort to reduce their packaging, I also think it’s up to us to avoid over-packaging wherever we can and reduce our own waste. I’m definitely not blameless – I often find myself throwing away way too many boxes and bottles at lunchtime and feeling really guilty as I add it to the many others in the office bin. I’m making the effort to try and bring my own lunch to work a few times a week. Not only does it reduce packaging, it also saves money and is healthier. It’s just about getting into the habit.

Guest

Another funny turn of events… Sainsbury’s today announced it plans to use bags instead of boxes for its cereal (coincidence?). Kellogs have fought back saying the bags need to be thicker and are harder to recycle (how many people recycle cereal bags?) and that more waste occurs due to damage to cereal in transit. It’s an interesting one – I can see arguments for both.

Read more here: http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1029124/kellogg-odds-sainsburys-cereal-packaging/

Guest

We must be careful about reducing packaging. I am old enough to remember the wholesale removal of goods from store shelves because of tampering claims (e.g. cyanide in Mars bars, glass in baby food). Most of these were extortion attempts but some were protests against the company concerned. As a result tamper-proof packaging was introduced. With the number of people who now want to do serious harm to other nationalities extortion is not likely to be the main problem should we remove ‘excess’ packaging and make tampering possible again.