By Stephanie Clifford,
The Pyranna, the Jokari Deluxe, the Insta Slit, the ZipIt and the OpenIt apply blades and batteries to what should be a simple task: opening a retail package.
But the maddening — and nearly impenetrable — plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes.
“With the instability in petroleum-based materials, people said we need an alternative to the clamshell,” said Jeff Kellogg, vice president for consumer electronics and security packaging at the packaging company MeadWestvaco.
Companies are scuttling plastic of all kinds wherever they can.
Target has removed the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts, has redesigned packages for some light bulbs to eliminate plastic, and is selling socks held together by paper bands rather than in plastic bags.
Wal-Mart Stores, which has pledged to reduce its packaging by 5 percent between 2008 and 2013, has pushed suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers, and has made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones to cut down on plastic use.
At Home Depot, Husky tools are going from clamshell to paperboard packaging, and EcoSmart LED bulbs are about to be sold in a corrugated box, rather than a larger plastic case.
“Most of our manufacturers have been working on this,” said Craig Menear, the head of merchandising at Home Depot. “We’ve certainly been encouraging them.”
Shoppers have long complained that clamshells are a literal pain, and environmentalists have denounced them as wasteful. To save money and address complaints, retailers and manufacturers started minimizing packaging in the e-commerce sphere a few years ago. Amazon, for example, introduced a “frustration-free packaging” initiative in 2008 intended to defuse wrap rage and be more eco-friendly. Other retailers have also been looking for ways to improve the customer’s unpacking experience.
“As a guy in packaging, I get all the questions — there’s nothing worse than going to a cocktail party where someone’s asking why they can’t get into their stuff,” said Ronald Sasine, the senior director for packaging procurement at Wal-Mart. “I’ve heard over the years, ‘How come I need a knife to get into my knife?’ ‘How come I need a pair of scissors to get into my kid’s birthday present?’ ”
To see the full article from NYTimes, click here.