Monday, 23 May 2016

The grand parade of lifeless packaging

Sometimes I write about things that only a few people will be able to relate to.
My previous post for example wouldn't have held much interest for anyone who wasn't into aircraft or engineering.
To balance the scales a little, I think it's time I poked the finger of rebuke at something we have all experienced at some time - bad packaging.

In years gone by packaging was a much simpler affair. When you did the grocery shopping just about everything came in either a cardboard box, a tin can or a paper bag. The paper bag may not have been the last word in secure protection, but at least you could access your purchases without resorting to industrial cutting equipment.
The worst culprit by far in this respect is the thick plastic display pack that has been seam welded all the way around. The only way to open these things is using heavy duty scissors while being careful to avoid slicing your hand open on the razor sharp cut edges, which I find is virtually impossible unless you're wearing chain-mail gloves. Extracting a new USB drive from its plastic prison cell is a task of similar danger level to juggling with chainsaws.

There are some products with which I never seem to learn my lesson no matter how many times I'm disappointed. I don't think I've ever had a pack of bacon that can be opened by peeling the film off in the manner suggested. They tempt you by providing a little tab in the corner marked with the standard lie that packaging manufacturers use, which strikes fear into the heart of every consumer out there - 'Easy open'.
You know it's a lie and you shouldn't even bother trying, but there's some inexplicable force that urges you to try - you never know, this might be the one time when it actually works.
So you fiddle around for the next five minutes trying to tease the corner up with your fingernail, getting more and more agitated until finally you're rewarded by the sight of the corner of the film waving provocatively at you, daring you to take that final step which will seal your doom.
You know you should have just dived in with a knife in the first place, but now you've invested too much time and effort to turn back even though you know this isn't going to end well.
You take a firm grip on the film tab and carefully start to apply the pressure. Nothing happens to begin with, but then there's the tiniest movement and precisely four nanoseconds before you start to get overexcited, the whole tab breaks off and you're left attacking the film lid like Jack Nicholson did to the door in 'The Shining'.

Shower gel, like other liquid products, is marked on the bottle with the volume of the contents, but I firmly believe that there should be two figures quoted - one for the amount in the bottle, and a second which tells you how much of that you'll actually be able to get out.
It doesn't matter how long you leave the bottle inverted or how hard you shake it, you will never get it all out; at least not until you wash the bottle out ready for recycling, whereupon you end up with a bottle full of foam that refuses to come out at all.
Ring-pulls on the top of tins has made them far easier to open, and has (unusually for this area) actually been a good thing. Mostly.
You become lured into a false sense of security, to the point where taking a tin of soup to work for lunch becomes a regular habit until one day the ring pull simply snaps off with no warning, leaving you with a sealed tin, no tin opener, and an empty stomach. I've got quite adept now at using a hammer and screwdriver to resolve this situation.

Yogurt pots have been cunningly designed with a concealed spring in the bottom which chucks yogurt down the front of your trousers leaving a suspicious looking stain.
The flip lid on Tesco 1 litre bottles of vegetable oil self-destructs when the bottle is still half full, so you have to prise it up with a teaspoon to get it open. This is just the tip of the iceberg with veg oil, because ever since people realised that old diesel cars could run on it, the price went up from about 30p per litre to over a pound per litre - effectively imposing fuel tax on it.
I ran a couple of diesel cars on a 50/50 mix of diesel and vegetable oil with no problems apart from the exhaust smelling a bit like a fish & chip van, but once the financial incentive was gone there wasn't any point doing it, although those old cars did run better on the heavier fuel.
Anyway, I digress...

No matter how awful some packaging may be, at least there is one example that seems to have thankfully become quite a rarity, and that is the old Tetra Pak folded paper milk cartons.
Attempting to open one of these nearly always ended in disaster - these were the ones where you had to pull the flaps apart (ooer!) then drag them forwards again, splitting the seam neatly to form a spout. At least that was the theory.
If you were lucky enough for it to actually work without sending half the carton's contents across the floor or simply crushing the flaps rendering them useless and having to resort to scissors, that was the day you should have bought a lottery ticket.