Excess / Excessive Packaging of Products is Shameful

Yesterday my Husband came home with a tub of Vitamin tablets I had asked him to pick up for me in town. What has prompted me to write this hub is the disgust I felt when I opened the tub to see that the contents barely covered the bottom of the container, which in itself was a good 3 inches (8cm) tall and made of plastic. As you will see if you look at both the header picture of this article, and the pictures to the right of this text, there is absolutely no logical reason to make the container so very much larger than could possibly be required to house the thirty tablets it contained. To make matters worse, by being made of plastic this container is likely to still be around long after the human race has died out.


My mind almost instantly recalled another occasion similar to this that happened when I worked for a local facilities management company. As a receptionist I often had to open parcels that were delivered in order to determine who the contents were for. One day a large box about 2ft x 2ft x 18" arrived via courier, and having signed for it I proceeded to open this extremely light box. Inside I was faced with a mountain of polystyrene packaging chips, which I rummaged around in hoping to find the mystery contents of the parcel. After a few moments it became obvious it wasn't going to be so easily located, so I carefully began to scoop out handfuls of the polystyrene chips on to the desk. Eventually I reached the bottom of this large box, by which time I was surrounded by multicoloured polystyrene chips, and looked like I had been snowed in behind the reception desk. Finally, success, at the very bottom of the box, lost in one corner, was a small connector of some description, approximately an inch square in size. I have to confess I was actually laughing by now, as the whole situation was so ridiculous. This item could easily have been sent in a small padded envelope, but no, apparently this cheap connector required packaging that was fit to send a newly discovered Egyptian artefact around the globe in, with sufficient padding to ensure that even a Ming Vase contained in the same box would not break if the office lads chose to play football with the box around the office during their lunch hour. But seriously, I began to wonder if these companies were actually unaware of the current pressure for us to reduce unnecessary packaging in order to protect the welfare of the environment and to reduce the pressures on landfill sites that are already filling up at an alarming rate.

Sainsbury's Wastefully Packaged Meat Joint

Quote from The Daily Mail

  • Sainsbury's in dock over beef joint that comes in plastic shrink-wrap, placed inside a plastic tray, with a plastic lid and finished with a cardboard sleeve

A landmark prosecution will heap pressure on Britain’s supermarkets to end hugely wasteful food packaging.

Sainsbury’s is being taken to court for using excessive wrapping in a move that could open the door to a wave of similar charges being brought.

The store is the first supermarket to face official action over wasteful packaging.

*****

Trading standards officers have acted decisively over Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Slow Matured Ultimate Beef.

It not only comes in a plastic shrink-wrap, but is placed inside a plastic tray, topped with a transparent plastic lid and surrounded with a cardboard sleeve.

The meat is a typical example of supermarkets’ excess packaging and the resulting waste that campaigners say is turning the country into the ‘dustbin of Europe’.

Around 5 per cent of the average shopping basket is packaging and the UK produces 9.3million tons of waste packaging a year – the equivalent weight of 245 jumbo jets every week.

Other Examples of Excess Packaging

Personally I am frustrated that so far in the UK only Sainsbury's have been prosecuted, especially as there is legislation in place to apparently avoid the use of excess packaging. The trouble appears to be that it is not enforced nearly often enough, and clearly a number of companies continue to ignore the legal risks of continuing this illegal practice, safe in the knowledge little is being done to pursue them.

Another problem is that many companies might simply be sending items from one company to another, and therefore the excess packaging is not seen by the general public or the authorities, (such as in the case I experienced with the tiny connector in the huge box of polystyrene chips). In instances like this I believe that a direct approach to the Managing Directors of these businesses is in order, and that if as an employee you try this and it fails, then the next stage is to report these companies to your local authorities asking them to act on this. The more pressure we apply as individuals the better, and the planet is as much our responsibility as the authorities.

I am additionally bewildered and confused as to how using so much excess packaging is cost effective for these businesses. Surely it must be a lot more expensive for them to make a plastic container five times the size it needs to be to hold a few Vitamin tablets, and I am reasonably certain postage of a huge box to hold one tiny connector would be far more pricey than simply popping said item in a padded envelope and sending it recorded delivery.

I decided to do a quick Internet search to find some more examples of excess packaging gone mad. I have added them to the 'gallery of excess packaging' below, and would be very grateful for any other pictures you might want to email to me showing me examples you have found of the same shameful practice of packaging products to death, (sometimes so much so we can barely get them out of the packaging ourselves unless armed with a large machete or a chainsaw). If you think you might have a suitable picture, or have found a suitable image online, then please either post a link in the comments section below, or contact me directly using the envelope icon below my profile picture at the top of this hub. I can then email you directly and give you an email address to send the image to.

Perhaps between us if we can show enough examples of this practice, and name and shame the companies involved, either they themselves will act on this, or the authorities will know where to start applying pressure and who to go after first. If the country you live in does not have such legislation in place yet, then perhaps you could write to your own Government urging them to take action and introduce it.

Excessive Packaging Gallery

Impossible to get into packaging
Impossible to get into packaging
Yes, this really is one cashew nut individually packaged!
Yes, this really is one cashew nut individually packaged!
Cauliflower in a box! Why?
Cauliflower in a box! Why?
Garlic in a tray and plastic covered.
Garlic in a tray and plastic covered.
Easter Eggs are a really bad culprit for excessive packaging.
Easter Eggs are a really bad culprit for excessive packaging.
Note the fact these health bars are a whole lot shorter than the box in which they have been packaged.
Note the fact these health bars are a whole lot shorter than the box in which they have been packaged.
Apples do not need a tray when a paper bag is more than adequate.
Apples do not need a tray when a paper bag is more than adequate.
Potatoes in an eggbox style container....I repeat why?
Potatoes in an eggbox style container....I repeat why?

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Comments 31 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Hi, Cindy - don't expect to make any inroads in the "impossible to get into packaging." Items are packaged that way to deter shoplifters. Sometimes, small items arrive in very large boxes because the shipper had no other size box available. Expedience rules. :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Crikey, that is a scary thought drjb. Surely the shippers have a responsibility to make sure they DO have the right sized box available, and also a smaller package would generally arrive faster than a larger one, so it is in their interests for 'expedience'.

Not totally convinced by the shoplifter reason for 'impossible to get into packaging' either, as after all a lot of these items are in fairly small packages anyway, easy for a shoplifter to slip inside a coat.

Cheers for the feedback and thoughts though :)


"Quill" 6 years ago

HI mistyhorizon2003... could not agree more... it is lie they super-size the box without asking but the cost are passed onto the consumer. As the consumer we should be a little more aware what we are paying for. Security is always a a concern to the retail, my per peeve is the electronic industry, an example is the simple small memory card, as innocent as they come and yet you are expected to come complete with two men and a boy to get into them... very frustrating and yet necessary I suppose or could they keep them locked away and simply pass them to you.

Blessings and Hugs


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

mistyhorizon2003 - I do not think that Sainsbury's meat wrapper is all that bad, for, after all, meats can have different shapes even for the same weights. The packs that get to me are the ones that are next to impossible to open. Your photo of that kind of pack with the broken scissors tells the tale. Thanks for the fun article.

Gus :-)))


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Quill, it would definitely be much better if they simply kept the small high value items locked away I agree completely. Thanks for the comment and lovely to see you here.

Hi Gus, I guess the problem with the Sainsbury's meat was not due to the shape of the meat itself, but more to do with the amount of packaging layers wise. Surely shrink wrap, a plastic lid, a tray AND a cardboard sleeve were not ALL necessary. Normally a joint of meat would have just 2 things, shrink wrap and a tray, the Sainsbury's meat had 4 things, double the amount, 3 out of 4 of which were plastic which is not biodegradable.

Thanks for the feedback though, and of course it is always great to see you visit one of my hubs :)


JohnBarret profile image

JohnBarret 6 years ago

yes, its really annoying when a big shopper is opened to find a small item inside. Good feedback.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks JohnBarret, I appreciate your feedback and glad you agree.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Great hub and one that is long time in coming. I have also been aware of all this excessive packaging especially at Christmas time when you need a jackhammer or a chainsaw to get inside a package that contains a barbie doll that a wide eyed little girl is anxiously waiting for. It would drive me crazy and something does need to be done about it because it is a waste of time and money. Great job bringing this to light for us in a well written manner. CHeers to you.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Ladyjane, I am always delighted to get this kind of positive feedback and support from readers of my hubs. :)


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

Hello again, Misty - Just some thoughts about that Sainsbury's meat package deal - The package was obviously meant for display on a supermarket cooler shelf. It had to be air and moisture proof. Further to its design, the cardboard sleeve contained a whole lot of information, not only about the contents of the package, but how to prepare the stuff to eat. (Sainsbury wanted you to return for more such that they wanted to help you cook the stuff, plus the sleeve allowed them to make the package look "prettier."

My current packaging "beef" concerns bar soap. The wrap is about the same as ever - some sort of waxed paper wrap with all of the necessaries printed on it. The rascals changed the actual shape of the bar of soap, radically curving it in its middle. This makes the wrapped bar look to be probably 30% to 50% fatter than it actually is, and the soap bar is actually much smaller than it used to be. (Their motto must now be, "Looks fat, so take THAT!"

Again, your hub was a beauty and fun to read and to view the many images.

Gus :-)))


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Again Gus, I know what you are saying, but meat packaged in just film and a tray also offer instructions for cooking, calories contained etc (usually on the back of the label that shows the price, weight etc on). All our meat is pretty much displayed on cooler shelves, so the excess packaging is really not required in order for the meat to be protected. I agree totally they wanted to make the package 'look prettier' but that is a large part of the problem, prettier packaging might sell more, but it also impacts on the planet more, and not for any other reason than to increase the profits of the supermarkets. This is why Sainsbury's have been the first to be prosecuted, because the excess packaging was so obviously unnecessary and excessive.

The soap example you gave also sounds really bad. Perhaps you could take a picture and email it to me so I can add it to the 'gallery' above and give you the credit for the contribution :)

Cheers again for the further visit and feedback :D


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 6 years ago from New York, NY

Very good hub. The reason why companies don't pay attention to this phenomenon is that, I think, package expenses are very low to consider them, even in excessive packaging (and in any case I'm sure they're included in the final product price). In some cases a very small package (like a memory card) can be easily lost in mail.

But it does a greater damage to the enviroment. The minute we unwrap the goods, the packaging becomes garbage and plastic is the worst waste.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks moncrieff, informative and relevant feedback. Plastic as you say is most definitely the worst culprit. Perhaps as consumers we need to start boycotting products in excessive packaging in order to force these companies to re-think their policies.


ocbill profile image

ocbill 6 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

Great topic. I agree there is a lot of waste on resources. Even if it is recyclable is no excuse.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Ocbill, I totally agree as even recyclable packaging costs money and takes energy to recycle. Thanks for the comment :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

The good news is that the UK may have more luck in trimming this excess than the US, where capitalism is king and the economic base of manufacturing has been replaced by "value-add" product distribution and bulldog marketing strategies.

I am sad to say that a relative of mine, who has a degree in industrial packaging design, completely defends this waste...but then, this waste accounts for her cushy salary.

Blister packs ought to be forbidden by law. There's no way to open them without risk of slicing skin, even if you do use scissors.

Super Hub.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Sally, I am saddened to hear that your relative can defend this kind of packaging. Everyone is so short sighted that they fail to see the long term effects on the planet, and even on their own children, grandchildren, great grand children etc. Greed is a terrible thing, and this is just one example of why I truly believe the best thing that could ever happen to this planet is for the human race to die out so that nature can go back to doing what she does best.... running the planet in a balanced way.

Thanks so much for commenting.


jandee profile image

jandee 6 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Hello mistyhorizon, How I agree with you,I remember shopping with my mother at little individual shops, potatoes at the bottom of the big straw shopping bag then meat,cheese,tomatoes and bread with cakes on the top......No packaging and I try my best to do just that...terrible here in France if you forget your shopping bag as only a few stores give a bag which is good news. By the way we don't need the human race to die out but we do need to rid ourselves of the capitalist system which thrives on waste !! Good hub,

jandee


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi jandee over here they have recently stopped issuing free carrier bags and now we have to pay 5p or 10p for a bag (depending on if it is quite strong or not).The 10p ones are a 'bag for life' so if they wear out the shop will replace them free of charge. So far the system is working really well.

Oh the human race dying out comment was more my opinion in general, not just based on waste, but on loads of things such as destroying of wildlife habitats due our overpopulating the planet etc. Probably a topic for another hub though.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

OMG I was going to write a hub about this! It is ridiculous to the max. I do use those meat containers though as food and water recptacles for my outdoor cats. They are good to put cat litter in for my hospital for when someone is in it and is the right height.

I couldn't blieve it when my hubby brought hom some nasal spry for me and it too the two of us to open the plastic that was wrapped on it. we eventually had to cut it off with a knife. Good grief! I am glad it wasn't an emergency because it took about 10 minutes to get into it. Rediculous!

I have also gotten vitamins in the mail and have to go fishing for them in the box of styrofom penuts. What to do with all that stuff and you can't burn it! I once had a huge bag of that stuff gleened from all the packaging. I think I stil have in in my crawspace.

Thanks for writing this!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi LG, thanks for the feedback. Those Styrofoam/polystyrene chips are a nightmare aren't they. I find them under my couch weeks later. Perhaps you could use the big bag you have to fill a large fabric 'beanbag' for use in your home. At least they would make a warm comfortable seat and if you don't like it your cats probably will. At least they are recycled this way :)


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

LOL Yeah, the cats would love them! Charlie already got one and it melted and he got sick from it. He is the darnest thing--he will pick up string or other things like dust bunnies from under things and eat it. I had some plastic string on the floor that I did see under the couch and he threw it up the next day. I didn't even know it was ther and so glad it came out in on big lump as a hairball.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Crikey, and I thought it was mainly dogs such as beagles and labradors that ate things like this, (although I have known cat that ate a needle and cotton and had have an operation to remove it.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

Charlie would do that! He's a trip.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL, I wonder what on earth makes eating such weird things appealing to them!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

I dunno. It's not like he doesn't have any food to eat. I have it up above the doors in those meat trays you have posted on here. They hold a three day's supply of cat food and there are three out to feed 4 cats. I also have one under and behind the futon we have so the dog can't get it. Still he will eat string and other stuff. It's almost like having a small child in here with picking things up nad making sure what he has in his mouth is food and not something else.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Like they say "Curiosity killed the cat", I guess this might be where the expression comes from ;)


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

So glad that I came to read your hub. Excellent job! well you already know that I totally agree with you. Would it be alright with you if I put a link to your hub on my over packaging rant?

Up Awesome and useful!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

That would be lovely Susan, I can do the same for you if you would like me to. Just say the word. Thanks :)


henny 4 years ago

Good info. Ive always wondered why the packagers think the consumer is stupid. Perhaps its guilt about the price we pay. Ps is a hub a pod?


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Henny, a Hub is an article written on Hubpages (this site).

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