Green Design, Not So Green Implementation by Gia Machlin, May 18 2010, 1 Comment

Plastic Bottle Caps

I have to share something that has driven me absolutely crazy for a while. At the risk of exposing too much information, I'm letting you know that am still taking the birth control pill at age 46. Anyway, I get my three month supply from Medco every, well, three months. Included in the package are three refills - the soft plastic package that has all the pills lined up neatly in a circle with foil on the back for the pill to "pop through" when I push on each little individual section. OK, but here's the really annoying part: Medco also sends me 3 more hard plastic dispenser cases! What? Kudos to the person/people who invented the refillable dispenser package design but isn't this TOTALLY defeating the purpose??? Shouldn't I be able to have ONE REUSABLE plastic container that gets REFILLED once a month?

To be honest, I have not called Medco to complain. I guess I'm just assuming that I'll get somebody in customer service who will just think I am a nut. If anyone knows someone who might be involved in the decision making around packaging medications at Medco, let me know and I will be sure to contact them. So I wanted to know if other people were experiencing similar frustrations around inefficient packaging and I placed a query on HARO. Here are some of the responses I got:

Nicole DeRuiter on migraine medication packaging: "I had a prescription for Maxalt MT for a while and it was crazy - there was an outer cardboard box, and inside of the cardboard box were 3 or so plastic boxes and in each of the plastic boxes were (I think) 5 pills, each wrapped in their own foil wrapper that was probably 10 times larger than the pill itself. Inside of the foil, the pill was in a plastic blister!!! Drove me nuts." Nicole has since switched to Imitrex (for medical reasons) and she finds the packaging much less of a headache....

Jimbo Harris on memory cards for digital cameras: "For a product the size of a quarter, you purchase a plastic hanging display package nearly the size of a sheet of paper." He also finds the free adapters for other size readers wasteful. I agree Jimbo - I have so many extra memory card adapters in my drawer that I could build a little plastic house.

Jillian Myers on tequila packaging "I used to work at a bar. When we ordered Patron Tequila from the distributor (4-6 cases/month), each bottle of Patron comes in the case individually boxed in a nice green gift box with green tissue paper. It would make me sick to throw out all that wasted packaging." Hmmm...and the margarita drinkers never got to see the pretty boxes...can someone at Patron tell us what's the point?

Finally Dean Cycon of Dean's Beans says: "If you really want an example of waste, look at the infamous Keurig coffee system, or K-Cups, that is owned by "Green Mountain Coffee Roasters" of Waterbury Vermont....the little containers that each cup comes in are not recyclable or biodegradable or compostable. They are an ecological disaster. Last year alone, I believe that Green Mountain was responsible for about fifteen million of these little monsters going into landfills around the country." Wow! That's just bad design and bad implementation. But I guess it's good for business. According to Dean, "This technology has become the biggest growth engine of Green Mountain and its stock has tripled this year, largely on these sales." Green Mountain, what say you????

Thanks for these great examples, folks. As consumers, we have only so much control over our waste reduction efforts. We can stop using plastic bags and paper coffee cups and plastic water bottles, but we can't stop taking our medications, storing our digital pictures or drinking our margaritas (OK - maybe we can). My point is that we often feel helpless when some big company is involved. But each individual is part of a greater community, and as a group we can make our voices heard. Let's work together to stop this excess packaging madness!

Anyone out there have any contacts or ideas or comments?