Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to open clamshell packaging

clamshell packaging
(Photo: Aprille Clarke / Flickr)

Dealing with "clamshell" or "oyster" packaging (the rigid, sealed plastic that lots of electronics come in) can be a real nightmare. In fact, the term "wrap rage" was coined to describe the anger and frustration that inevitably arises when trying to pry the ubiquitous packaging open.

Thousands of people end up in emergency rooms each year with lacerations and puncture wounds from battling with the nearly impossible-to-open packaging. Many more get minor wounds from using sharp objects to open packages, according to American Medical News.

It's not the best choice for the planet either. Clamshell packaging is typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is considered the most environmentally damaging plastic around. Its production releases toxic chemicals that make their way into our food supply and it's difficult to recycle.

Companies use the universally despised packaging because it secures items during shipping and helps prevent shoplifting. It's also easy to display in stores and allows consumers to see what they are buying.

Some businesses are finally getting the message that consumers have had enough. Amazon launched its Frustration-Free Packaging initiative to help reduce packing waste and wrap rage. An added bonus is that is saves consumers time as this video demonstrates. Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy are also making efforts to phase out the aggravating packaging.

In the meantime, there's a surprisingly simple tool that can tackle clamshell packaging quickly, efficiently, and without injury -- a rotary can opener. The best part is you probably already have one sitting in a kitchen drawer. The video below shows how it's done.

Here are a few other tips you might want to keep in mind:

  • Buy products without clamshell or any excessive packaging when you have a choice.
  • Before you break out your can opener, check to see if the packaging has any tiny tabs or perforations (an addition some companies have made in response to consumer complaints).
  • Finally, if you like gadgets and you're not up for the can opener idea, there are a whole bunch of products on the market that are designed specifically to open clamshell packaging. Here's Consumer Reports' round-up of "Tools you can use to crack the case."

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and

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