Return to Packager: My Recycling Bin Revolution

I just bought a pair of headphones and a headache—unnecessary cardboard and plastic waste probably five times the weigh of the earbuds. Those little headphones, which I can hide in palm of my hand, required double-layered plastic shell larger than a college paperback that was glued to a cardboard spine that could have boxed the earbuds and accessories by itself. Of course, such witless waste is a fact of American life. Few products are shipped or shelved with a minimum of packaging. It almost seems like products compete on not on “value add,” but on “package add.”

Well, I’ve had enough. And I have an idea for how to turn the tables on marketers and manufacturers—Return to Sender: Packaging Edition. Simply put, why is it my responsibility to deal with their irresponsibility? Why do I have to recycle the mound of cardboard and plastic waste surrounding my earbuds, when all I want is my earbuds. It shouldn’t be my burden, it should be the manufacturer’s. 

How would such a system work? Well, this blog is not about details, but ideas. That said, here’s a start. If I buy earbuds from a store (big box retailer to corner store), I should be able to leave the packaging, either right after purchasing or after I am sure of satisfaction. If I buy the earbuds online (say from Amazon), I should be able to do the same—use the return label to ship the waste back to them. When the manufacturer delivers goods to the store or online retailer warehouse, they should receive the packaging remains. If they reused them, at least that would be a step in the right direction.

If not, it’s their waste problem to deal with, not mine. At that’s a bigger deal that I think people realize. Why should I feel so guilty about consumer waste, when I never asked for a mountain of packaging to surround my mole hill of earbuds. Everyday I encounter waste that even my best intentions couldn’t avoid. Marketers and manufacturers do not have to face up to their waste because I’ve agreed not only to pay for it—in the purchase price of my product—but to process it in my trash or recycling bin.

Well, I have three words for them, “Take it back!”


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