Like most people, I’ve never been a fan of the so-called "blister-packs" that house today’s electronic gadgets. While I’ve never personally done any serious damage to myself when trying to open one of these, it’s understandable how folks can even end up in hospital as they anxiously attempt to free their new "e-joy" from its plastic prison. Added to this aggravation, you typically end up with a bunch of packaging that has no other destination than the landfill. That’s why I was very pleased with my experience in opening a new Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse (with "BlueTrackTM technology" no less!).
The fact that I managed to open the packaging with no sharp instruments and a 4 month-old baby boy sitting on my lap is no less short of amazing. I’m pretty sure that Liam didn’t appreciate the breakthrough in packaging technology as much as I did, but I’m sure he was thankful that I didn’t have to put him down to achieve this feat that previously would have been considered negligent parenting. The magic breakthrough is a couple of tabs on the back of the package which you tear down the back, allowing you to open the sides. A good firm tug on the sides then snaps them off and voila, you have free access to the contents.
And the sweet surprise inside? (other than the mouse itself which works on my granite countertops). A note printed on the paperboard which states that the plastic portion if the package is manufactured using PET, not PVC, which means it is #1 recyclable! (the same material used in water bottles). [update: Not so fast: According to our packaging folks, the PET cannot be recycled because it doesn’t look like a bottle. Yep, most recycling facilities manually sort plastics and discard anything that doesn’t look like a bottle, regardless of the material it is made of. Bummer). Along with the paper and cardboard inserts (manufactured using 50-75% recycled paper and using soy inks to boot), this means that for the first time in my experience, all the packaging can go straight into the recycle bin [well not quite as I explained above]. And the Mouse product managers were even kind enough to put a link to our http://microsoft.com/environment site!
Also, according to this story on NPR’s Marketplace, Amazon.com is teaming up with some manufacturers, including Microsoft, to provide "frustration-free" packaging. The story cites a toy that literally just comes packaged in a carboard box with just plain brown corrugate filler that is 100 percent recyclable. Of course this works for Amazon because they don’t have to deal with theft by consumers, so what Microsoft is doing with products like computer mice is hopefully a trend that others will follow for the brick-and-mortar channel.
If I had one criticism it would be that there is no indication on the outside of the package or the web site that the packaging is indeed recyclable. If there’s anything that consistently gives me buyer’s remorse, it’s when I end up with a bunch of packaging that I have no other choice but to put in the garbage. As more manufacturers start to adopt more sustainable packaging strategies (and really, I don’t want to see another polystyrene foam insert or pellet as long as I live), I think this will become a differentiator for their products.
[so I guess I can still put the PET parts in the recycling and hope they make it past the sorters]
What do you think? Does or will packaging affect your buying decisions?