April 29, 2007

Sealed for whose protection?

Forget going green. I grew up in the day of "Give a hoot. Don't pollute." I remember the first Earth Day ever. That was in the late 1960s, at a time when the most challenging package to open was a cardboard milk carton. In the 1960s, the golden word was "plastics."

These days, the packaging industry, in particular the clam-shell and shrink-wrap divisions, is alive and well, and trying to make it impossible for you to open, in no particular order: a CD (why does it come with theft-proof tape when I bought it online, and the retailer doesn't have any brick and mortar stores); ditto the calculator or camera trapped in a clam shell, which has also never seen the light of an actual store; or the vitamins with an outer clear plastic seal, an inner foil liner, and of course, a "childproof" cap.

And our pharmaceuticals: the "childproof" prescription bottles for which you need the child, especially when you would need to put on your reading glasses to see what the opening instructions were; a "squeeze to open" Aleve bottle, when one of the medications main uses is to help those with arthritic hands, and hands with problems -- arthritis, tendinitis, loose tendons, and the like -- can barely button a blouse, much less tangle with the great God plastic.

Following those challenges comes the squeeze bottle, whether it contains moisturizer, shampoo, chocolate syrup, or mayonnaise. Without the ability to press one's fingers comfortably to one's palms, you will need to reorder these supplies more frequently than someone who can squeeze every last drop out of the squirt-top (not removable, of course).

And finally, the toothpaste tube: you know that toothpaste manufacturers adore the fact that no one can completely empty the tube, unlike in days past when the tubes were metal and you could attach a toothpaste key to make sure you'd finished off the tube. This practically defines planned obsolescence.

What I want to know, in the age of An Inconvenient Truth, is whether it takes more energy and a larger "carbon footprint" to manufacture all these items from plastic, or whether it took less energy and we were less wasteful in the days of glass and metal, without shrink-wrapped plastic covering our every purchase.

'Cause my cohorts and I aren't getting any younger or gaining more manual dexterity, and right now, at the supposed height of our buying power, we are not the happiest of consumers.

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