Jan 042011

I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration of trying to extract a small gadget from it’s plastic clamshell packaging.  If not, then you have avoided one of the great curses of our high-tech culture.  These tough plastic cases are fused together in a factory, in an apparent attempt to prevent any purchaser from actually being able to access their new toy.  Trying to open such packets invariably leads to a furious anger which, I was delighted to learn, is known as “wrap rage”.

This large clamshell package with two cardboard inserts was simply to hold a 1 metre audio cable until I had it at home!

Beyond being almost impossible to open, this sort of packaging leads to a deeper fury about resource management.  Hard plastic clamshells add weight to products while they are transported, so their distribution costs more energy.  If they are ever actually pried open, they are immediately rubbish.  Hopefully they will be recycled, which still requires further energy, but too often the refined transparent plastic is just sent to landfill.

A while ago I was on a holiday and decided to play a video off my laptop.  I was able to connect the computer to the large television display, but my gadget travel-bag didn’t include the required audio cable.  Since my laptop speaker is poor, I went and bought a short wire to do the job.

The cable was only 1 metre long and would have fit in a small paper bag, but instead it was housed in a typically enormous clamshell package.  Being on holiday meant that I was not suitably armed to penetrate such a sturdy exoskeleton, and much wrap rage ensued.

I had seriously entertained the idea of asking the shop assistant to open the plastic and deal with the rubbish in-store, and I think I will make that my policy from now on.

Recycled cardboard packaging, with natural string and paper loops holding cable in place.

Buying an HDMI cable recently threatened to be a similar experience, but became an epiphany when I saw a cardboard box gleaming out from between the garish plastic clamshells.  Not only was the box recycled and recyclable, but the cable was made from “components which comply with the Regulation of Hazardous Substances directive” in a factory that has an “Environment Management System certified under the international standard ISO14001”.

They even donate $1.50 from each pack sold to Landcare Australia, who empower volunteers to “breathe new life into waterways”, “bring back trees”, and “restore wildlife habitats”.  Even if only half of these claims are true, this  is an exciting future for wrapping gadgets.

  One Response to “Gadget packaging for a future without wrap rage”

  1. I always preferred the twist-tie and cardboard sleeve packaging for cables. But I think marketing somehow think that a clam shell justifies premium pricing and probably reduces loss.

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