CF Bulbs and that clamshell packaging

We were in one of the gigantic Costco stores the other day and stocked up on compact fluorescent bulbs and I walked out feeling virtuous.

The CF Bulb

I was looking forward to getting home and swapping out a lot of old-style incandescent bulbs for these things and then enjoying the fact that I was getting just as much light for way less money and being good for the environment as well.

I’d opened and installed four before my wife came to me and pointed out the packaging they were in. I’m so used to buying things that come in those hard clear plastic moulded packages that you have to get strong scissors to even get into that I hadn’t noticed what the packaging was in my excitment to get into them and put the new bulbs up.` And, the truth is I hate the kind of non-recycleable 10,000 years packaging in the dump to delivery a product that will last at best a few years and at worse days or weeks.

the CF bulb

– But this was particularly outrageous as the product being delivered was and is being touted as a way to help preserve the planet. Unbelievable. My bulbs will last three to five years – maybe ten at the outside. Their packaging may still be here in the year 12,007. That’s easily twice all of human history. That’s (at 20 years per generation) 500 generations of human beings. That’s a damn long time. No one will remember my name after a few generations but the memory of my purchase will lie in a hole some where for all of that time – because why?

Well, interestingly, as I was searching for an image of a CF Bulb still in its hard plastic packaging, I chanced across a website called Landing the Deal which was discussing here why these bulbs are so hard to sell. Their theory about the hard plastic packaging was that it was to protect people from the small amount of Mercury inside which would be released if the bulb were broken.

That sound good – so long as you don’t actually try to think about it. Consider that these bulbs, after a hard and dangerous wrestle with sharp edged scissors, are going to come out of their packaging in the middle of your family (the ones who are being protected, remember) and the bulbs are going to be placed in the very areas where your family lives for a long time. And we’ll all just have to hope there are no accidents. And there the bulbs will be day after day without their protective plastic covering. Oh my gosh, am I missing something? No, but I think the people behind this theory might be.

Just for grins, never ever having done this before, I Googled “campaign against hard plastic packaging” and immediatly turned up a slew of strong hits. People are on this problem. Are they doing any good – I don’t know but they are on it. I also discovered that there’s a specific name for this kind of packaging – it’s called ‘clamshell packaging’. I like that better than Eternal amoured razor shark tooth packaging, I think, but it’s close.

Without having done the research, my two cents on why manufacturers prefer this packaging all goes back to the capitalistic corporate maximization of profit above all things motive.

If the plastic packaging is reasonably cheap to employ, then it’s a natural winner because it protects the product in transit so there are less damaged returns, it can be shaped to stack efficiently to lowe shipping costs, it can be designed so that it stands up as its own display without requiring a lot of external display apparatus, and it reduces shop lifting. All of those add to the item’s profitability. Once money changes hands and the product leaves the retail outlet, any problems with packaging trash disposal becomes someone elses.

Ugly, ugly ugly.

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