16 October 2009


As a lad, I would often saunter or skip down to the local shops in my East Yorkshire village with errands to complete for my mum. In those days, there were no such things as plastic carrier bags or ready meals. Packaging was far less advanced than it is today. People would automatically take their own baskets or bags and many grocery products would be unpackaged, including biscuits that you bought by weight from big shop tins.

Nowadays, packaging can be seen in two ways. Firstly, it's very ingenious - so many different methods have been devised to shift, seal and present a multitude of products. Secondly, it can be seen as an environmental crime - so much unnecessary waste. People produced much less packaging detritus when I was a lad.

This week I have bought a padlock and an electrical extension lead from the great cathedral of DIY known as B&Q. Both products hung from display hooks and both were encased in hard, clear plastic. You must know the sort of packaging I mean. It's very tough and there's no way you could break into it with your teeth. To get inside these lethal plastic shells, you need a strong pair of scissors or a sharp Stanley knife. Nowhere in the inner display writing does it ever say how you are meant to break into these plastic carapaces.

It's difficult to discover who invented sealed hard shell plastic packaging but it was clearly not for the benefit of customers - many of whom have actually injured themselves breaking into this impenetrable material. I guess it has only been around for about ten years. A couple of years ago a UK study calculated that around 60,000 people a year were suffering significant injuries connected with hard shell or plastic "clam shell" packaging. It would be easy enough for producers to insist on easy-to-open, only partially heat sealed packaging but they clearly don't give a toss about the buying public, focussing more upon product display, transport and product security.

Once a lad skipping to the local shops but now a grumpy and relatively old geezer, I know what I would do if I had my way. I would seal the managing directors of companies that opt for hard shell plastic packaging in that selfsame stuff and I would hang them from hooks in B&Q, splitting my sides with laughter while watching them struggling to break out.


  1. Since you wouldn't be able to receive anything in Thailand remotely Western, I'm all for it. Sorry.

  2. I endorse everything you say about the stupid plastic packaging ... which the WI is trying hard to stop. I nearly sliced my thumb off trying to get into a package of inks for the printer. Can I join in the laughing, I'd love to see your idea happen - MDs in Plastic has a nice ring to it :-)

  3. Of course the other advantage (to the producers and retailers) of this card plastic sealed packaging is that it's impossible to open the packet to get a good look at the product without totally destroying the packaging (and along with it, your chances of taking it back to the shop for a refund if it turns out to be not quite what you wanted).

    Computer cables (which surely don't require any packaging) are a bugger for this.

  4. And it's not only the hard plastic that is difficult....that thin plastic sheet is a right bugger. Impossible to tear. The stuff CDs are wrapped in. There must be an internal competition between manufacturers to see who can come up with the strongest film!


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