BEUSCHEL: The frustrations in unpackaging

Over the years, I have seen an advertisement on the side of an 18-wheeler depicting an egg and referring to the shell as the perfect container. It reminds me that there is a whole industry devoted to packaging.
Jul 18, 2013

I’m sure their goal is to provide packaging that allows the product to arrive fresh and/or undamaged. I appreciate all of their efforts once I get to the packaged item; however, that process of unpackaging is stressful and many times has me grinding my teeth along with grumbling angrily.

One of the most frustrating unpackaging activities I have ever done is helping my granddaughter get a doll out of a package. There are twisties, plastic bands and tape to deal with once inside the package. 

Getting inside the package can be a challenge with all the hard plastic outer packaging that does not yield to pulling. It takes a scissor and lots of patience to break through all of this and actually get to the doll. 

All of this breakdown of packaging is usually happening on the drive home from the store. What child can wait to open it at home? Usually, the only sharp cutting tool I have in the car is a nail clipper, and they just don’t cut it! (pun intended) 

Second of my most frustrating unpackaging items is CDs. I don’t buy a lot of CDs, so when I do I want to get them open and listen to them right away. There’s a pull-strip that opens the first layer of plastic and it usually breaks. Then there’s some sticky-type plastic that runs the side length of the CD, which without full removal won’t allow the case to open. That strip usually breaks several times and I resort to getting out my nail file to dig under the strip and peal it off in pieces. Grrrrrrrrrr. 

Next, let me say a few words about these plastic pull-strips on food packages that allow you to reseal the package afterward. I have yet to have one of those strips actually pull all the way across without breaking. I have found these on cheese packages and cereal bags. Once I get the strips off, separating the layers of plastic to actually open the package takes some gnashing of teeth to get the job done.

Fourth on my list (but who's counting?) would be clear plastic containers, especially the ones that I get  an assortment of vegetables in. They have these two tabs for opening — one says “hold” and one says “lift.” After many attempts from all different angles of attack, I get out a fork and pry the top and bottom of the container apart, and finally the tabs give way and separate.

Ugh! Why are cookie packages much easier to open than my vegetable packages?

Also on my list of difficult packages to open would be gallon milk jugs or orange juice containers. There are times when I just can’t get the top to unscrew because of the band that it is attached below the cap. After several tries, I resort to using my fork tinges again to get in there and break the band from the cap. 

In the case of some milk cartons, once the cap is off, there’s a seal to peel off. These seals now come with a little pull-tab to help (?) lift them up and off. A double layer of frustration!

Just as I thought I had the can opening challenge under control with an “easy to use for arthritic hands” can opener, things got difficult again. Enter the pull-tops on canned goods. This packaging idea is great for taking canned goods for lunch and not having to carry a can opener along, or if you have no can opener. However, it takes a good, hardy pull to get the pop top going, and that is not easy on the arthritic fingers.  

My difficulties with packaging may sound like whining and that I’m a wimp, but I find that the older I get, the less I want to struggle with little things like opening packages. I also find that I have less patience for doing it.

Just like the poem about wearing purple when one gets older, I like the feeling that I don’t feel obligated to go with the flow and keep my opinions to myself, hence becoming a writer at this point in my life.

As I was thinking about writing this article, I saw a segment on award-winning actor Jeremy Irons’ documentary “Trash.” He’s even more frustrated with packaging issues than I am, but from a different perspective. His documentary travels the globe to show what becomes of packages as they become garbage. Yikes! 

Irons' footage of Third World countries filling their beaches and streams with garbage is sickening. He believes that we will use our creativity to solve this problem and the Earth will not become one big garbage dump. Here, here! 

Now, if only part of the solution was packaging that was easier to open, having less layers and all biodegradable, I would jump right on his bandwagon.

Not only is packaging at times frustrating and difficult to deal with, but it has to be dealt with after it has done its job. I don’t think skiing down a hill of garbage or spending a day at the garbage beach is what the packaging industry has in mind. 

I love my undamaged purchases, but now what do I do with the package? 

— Janice Beuschel may be contacted by e-mail at drjanice@hotmail.com.

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