When I was given the brief for this article I was given one note: “Don’t be offensive to the packaging fraternity.” I can’t say I’d ever thought it was possible, although I’d ask if and where are all the packaging sororities!?

The problem with being offensive is that there aren’t any obvious stereotypes for the packaging industry now that Fish and Chip shops aren’t allowed to use newspapers. I miss the sweet sweet poisonous marinade of tabloid ink on my haddock. It complemented my tartar sauce nicely.

I’m pretty confident “Al Murray Packaging Expert” wouldn’t be a successful act. “Phwoar! Have you seen the polymer on that? Let’s have a flow-wrapped flapjack for him and a nice little pouch of Maltesers for the lady! Get your biodegradables out for the lads!” On second thoughts maybe I’ve found my niche as a packaging themed Al Murray tribute act. Maybe not. I’m not enough of a hard man. More into flexibles.

Instead it’s time to rejig (Ant &) Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and make it a crossover with Project Runway. “Watch as 5 new packaging designers improve upon some classic takeaway designs. This week: pizza boxes.” The first designer proudly steps up: “Pizza boxes have been the same for the past 50 years, but it’s time for something new. Pizzas are round so in that spirit, I present to you… ROUND PIZZA BOXES!!” The live audience whoops and cheers as the Ant and Dec’s voiceover wonders what the judges, made up of Jo Brand, Simon Cowell and Johnny Vegas, will say. It may be a terrible idea, but it would definitely be the best thing Ant & Dec have ever done. Still doesn’t feel offensive to the packaging industry though.

An invisible Industry

With a few notable exceptions (i.e. Easter Eggs) packaging is an invisible industry. If everything’s OK, no one notices. As long as I’m not eating bits of plastic, I don’t really care. That’s how it should be.

So it still raises the question, how do I offend an entire industry? Well to be fair I’ve just called you all invisible and you thought it was a compliment. You’re all just full of hot air! I am of course referring of course to the ever increasing use of gas flushing equipment…

There are some criticisms which do seem deep-seated. Cutting down on packaging has become a political mantra and to a certain degree that’s right. Polystyrene trays for apples seem a bit excessive and the number of coffee cups thrown away every day is nothing short of scandalous. The BBC’s Blue Planet has done a lot to create this image of habitats destroyed by packaging. We can’t start cupping rice and milk in our hands. I’m being a bit facetious, but the fact remains proper packaging increases shelf life creating a decrease in food wastage all whilst ensuring hygienic distribution.

I see the R&D going into biodegradables and the proper industry reflection surrounding the environmental impact of packaging and I only see points of pride. Maybe you have to delve deeper into the packaging industry to appreciate how to be properly offensive about it, but I see a group of businesses and individuals that want to work hard, play hard and change the world whilst remaining truly invisible. Hopefully like its eventual environmental impact.

Hayden Cohen

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