Among the multiple aggravations that come up in day-to-day life, there aren’t many that match struggling with excessive and often impregnable materials use to enclose and market consumer goods.
Buy something as basic as a toothbrush and see what happens when you pull the “easy-open” tab on the back of the package to get it free. The top layer of cardboard rips apart, and you snag a finger nail trying to dig inside. Time to hunt for a hacksaw, because the strongest pair of scissors will barely make a mark in the steel-force plastic blister cover on the front side.
How about the foil tops they use to seal a jar of peanut butter or mayo, or a carton of yogurt? They too come with useless pull-back tabs, so you get out a paring knife to carve it away.
I can’t help but sympathize with my spouse who puts opening a box of Cheerios on a close par to rocket science. Despite exacting care, he can’t seem to loosen the cardboard lid without massacring the closure tab. Then he blows a fuse trying to slice open the iron-clad plastic bag holding the cereal. “Where’s the X-Acto knife?” he grumbles. And I’m thinking it would be quicker and less painful to whip up a batch of eggs Benedict.
Who hasn´t done battle with single serving packets of ketchup and mustard you get with carry-out hot dogs and burgers? “Tear here,” it says on the serrated label. You pull this way and that, try ripping it apart with your teeth and nothing gives. It may be easier to break into Fort Knox than open one of those little suckers.
When we first came to Ajijic we marveled at the simplicity of stocking the larder at our neighborhood tiendita. Whenever we got a hankering for some oatmeal cookies we’d just trot across the street to pick up the ingredients. Señora Carmen soon learned the routine.
“Medio kilo de avena, un cuarto de azcuar, 100 gramos de mantequilla, dos huevos y un puñito de pasitas ¿verdad?” she’d recite. Like a master of Mexican origami, she swiftly wrapped up the oats, the sugar and raisins into cucuruchos, pieces of recycled newspaper shaped into tidy cones, filled and folded just so to assure that the contents wouldn’t spill out. The butter was folded in a bit of waxed paper. The eggs were snuggly placed on top of the other purchases loaded into our plastic net shopping bag, or sometimes gently handed over to be juggled in an open hand. And off we’d go with perfectly measured amounts for the recipe. No muss, no fuss and practically zero waste.
Sadly, plastic throw-aways have pretty much replaced the nifty cucuruchos. Yet I do take small comfort in finding there are still lots of local mom-and-pop stores that will sell you eggs by the piece, a single Bandaid, or even one cigarette at time for a quick tobacco fix. Buy pantry goods in bulk and they don’t blink at filling containers you bring along for that purpose.
As we mark World Environment this weekend, conscientious shoppers might reflect on how to reduce consumption of products veiled in layers of junk packaging … and start demanding that the powers that puts their minds to boosting tax revenues from industries that manufacture and utilize the vile stuff.