RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#354: Packaging & Cellophane
As I sit here finally ripping the cellophane off some of the discs I received for Christmas, a pile of discarded shrink wrap sits before me. I find the plastic waste problematic, but I also recognize that in today’s consumer market, you have to present your product as “brand new” or “untouched by human hands” in some way. So they seal up every CD and DVD, ensuring that nobody got their sticky hands on the playing surface of your disc. As an added bonus the shrink wrap protects the CD or DVD case, meaning you and only you can scuff it up yourself.
Part of me hates waste. The other part (the OCD part) really enjoys ripping the shrink wrap off a brand new CD and knowing that its appearance is perfect inside. Only I can mark it up, now. Same goes with toys, appliances, tools…we all want everything to be brand-spanking-new when we open them, when possible. We want to be the ones to rip the protective plastic film off that new TV. We want to be the ones who carefully remove our new laptops from the layers of packaging protecting them.
This seems to be especially important when giving gifts. When you’re giving something to a loved one, you want everything about it to be perfect as possible, from the box to the product, right? In cases like this, we tend to look at the layers of wasteful packaging as a necessary evil. You probably recycle and re-use as much as possible, but we all throw a whole lot of packaging straight into the garbage bin whenever we open something new.
I’ll give you an example from the Record Store days, just how some people value packaging over waste when gift giving. We used to offer a shrink wrap service. I don’t remember what we charged. If you wanted to buy a used CD and shrink wrap it in order to hide the fact that you were buying a used CD, we’d do it for 25 cents or 75 cents or something. It might shock you how many times I heard variations of the question, “This is a gift. Can you shrink wrap it for me?”
“Is there a way to put plastic on this so he doesn’t know it’s a used CD?”
“I don’t want her to know this is used. Do you have a shrink wrapping machine or something like that?”
And so on and so forth. There was a demand (clearly) so we offered it.
I found a better use for the shrink wrap machine. When I happened upon a rare digipack version of a CD, or something with fragile packaging, I would reseal it, to protect it. You’d be amazed how much you can wreck a CD case just from normal shelf wear. If it’s something which has value in its packaging, then you want to prevent that. I had (and later sold at a profit) a rare copy of The Black Crowes’ Amorica album. This had the “x-rated” cover on a good condition digipack. To prevent it from getting scuffed or damaged and losing value, I resealed it. When I later got the Sho’ Nuff box set, I sold it for like $20.
You know those burgundy and yellow jewel cases that came with Kiss’ You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best CD? Another prime candidate for resealing (though you will still have to be careful you don’t crack the plastic)!
Some of my co-workers were known to reseal their hands. I do not know why. I did not partake in that ritual.
My quandary can be summed up as this: I like packaging to a certain degree. I hate the waste aspect of it, and the environmental impact. In my own life I try to reduce waste as much as possible. But I can’t get around my preference to tear open the shrink wrap on a brand new virgin CD and be the first to touch it with bare hands.
What is the compromise? I don’t know.
I don’t think there is a compromise. I don’t think wasteful packaging is a sustainable practice. I think, sooner or later, we all are going to have to get used to shedding layers of waste in our future.