The end of clamshell packaging?

You all can imagine the scene:
Little Boy Billy gets a super fantastic toy for his birthday, and he can barely contain his excitement. He rips off the wrapping paper and holds it triumphantly above his head. A brand new super-soaker! But wait… how will he open it?
Practical Parent Peggy has gifted her daughter the best housewarming gift a 22-year-old could ask for: A giant flashlight for power outages that is so heavy it could, if necessary, double as a weapon against possible intruders! But wait… the packaging…
Tommy Teenager lost the headphones for his stylin’ tune-playing Discman, but never fear: He bought a brand-new set at the electronics store! But wait… THE CLAMSHELL PACKAGING!
You get the point (despite the aged Discman reference). You have something you want to get at, and it’s stuck in the preposterously difficult-to-open clamshell packaging, the heavy-duty plastic that fights off scissors, box cutters and sheer human strength until you’re left bleeding and defeated. Believe me — do a quick search on Twitter for “clamshell” and you’ll get a wide variety of emotions about this popular product packaging.
But businesses may be phasing it out.


The New York Times ran an article yesterday reporting on retailers’ shift toward greener, easier-to-open packaging, titled appropriately “Devilish Packaging, Tamed.” And apparently, it’s not consumer frustration that’s pushing the change — it’s oil prices.
Higher prices are leading manufacturers to look elsewhere for plastic substitutes: An alternative to the clamshell. Little Boy Billy, Practical Parent Peggy and Tommy Teenager will be overcome with joy when I tell them.
Environmentalists have long denounced the clamshell, calling it wasteful. But interestingly enough, replacing the clamshell is more difficult than just turning to cardboard (which could be equally wasteful, depending on how it’s used).
The Times article explains:

“The packaging has to sell the product, whether with explanatory text, bright colors or catchy graphics. And it has to deter shoplifters. Retailers lost about 1.44 percent of sales to theft in 2009, the latest numbers available, according to the National Retail Federation.”

But less plastic seems like a step in the right direction, which I say is less packaging overall. What do you think?

Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.

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1 Response

  1. Jo says:

    Some of the very worst packaging is for multi-pack printer cartridges. I’ve ‘lost my religion’ more than a few times trying to get one open without ending up with hands and fingers looking like they went thru a meat grinder.

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