[Jon Carroll]: Not only is he back from vacation, he’s railing about packaging.
That’s the dirty secret of packaging: It works. We may be brooding about excess and waste and the future of the planet now, but when we get to the store, it’ll be all yowie and bam and new free improved shrink-wrapped bubble- encased double-sealed whatever. Sound good? Buy two.
Of course those Europeans (there they go again!) have gotten clever about all that packaging stuff. The first in their series of “take back” regulations, promulgated in the early 90s, said “Guess what – producers own the packing, and need to take it back when buyers no longer want it.” The result? Not only a packaging recycling system (the “Green Dot”) but the systematic redesign of packaging to do more with less.
Product take back requirements rippling its way through the economy, extending to white goods (washing machines and refrigerators and the like) to consumer electronics (WEEE) to automobiles. The latest wrinkle: the Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which essentially says “We won’t buy any electrical or electronic equipment that contain six specific heavy metals and toxic molecules. (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls or polybrominated diphenyl ethers) Produce them without these nasties or we won’t buy them. And the list will get longer in future years.”
Silly Europeans, impossible demands? Yeah, sure. 450 million person market? Oh! So _their_ requirements are rippling through the global commerce — from the EU to brand name manufacturers to their outsourced “shoeless peasants in the Solomon Islands.” The big surprise (as is so often the case): environmental regulations drive design innovations that produce better products and higher profits.
Oh _please_ don’t throw me into the briar patch!

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