Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Plastic shmashtic

I just photographed the packaging of my latest assignment

While I'm writing this, I ought to be writing a CD review. Yes, my copy for BBC Music Magazine is late. Why? Because yesterday I spent so long picking and scratching and scrubbing at the plastic wrapping on the CD I have to review, trying to get the damn stuff off, that I found myself virtually shaking with rage and had to go and make a nice cup of tea to calm down, and then the phone rang, and then the plastic was still on the bloody disc, and...

OK, OK, I exaggerate. In fact, my copy is late because I am still agonising over what to say about the recording's content. But I do wonder: what is the earthly use of wrapping CD boxes in clear plastic which then has to be removed and, crucially, "thrown away"?

Given the state of my study bin, I can't imagine the state of CD-wrapper landfill sites. Add to that the amount of the stuff that results from a single trip to the supermarket - plastic packaging, sometimes several layers of it, around everything from apples to avocados, from gluten-free biscuits to cat food - and the situation becomes ludicrous, because it is so unnecessary, and so desperately damaging.

This business with the CD wrappers has been going on for as long as CDs have existed - so 35-odd years. I don't think much of the so-called 'jewel cases' either - rarely does one enter the house via the post unbroken, and the little teeth that hold the middle of the disc in place have a way of breaking off and falling under the desk, where your hoover's 'crevice nozzle' might pick them up if you're lucky, and you have to hope they don't jam up the machine's mechanism on their way in. They end up in the same landfill, I expect, but inside a hoover bag.

We don't need this. What's the answer? Streaming doesn't pay the right people enough yet - though the new copyright directive may help - so is not as sustainable a solution as we'd like. But there are different ways of designing and making CD covers. Some companies have been finding alternatives for quite a while, but not enough of them. Plain, recyclable, non-plastic cardboard and paper would be a good solution - just like the old LP sleeves with the inner, paper jacket around the record. I've been wondering for years why this hasn't made a comeback in smaller form. If you need to ensure the thing is closed, there are means to do that too: a spot of glue; a pretty red ribbon; a length of decorative but tough string. (Any cat will tell you that a cardboard box takes a lot of beating - to say nothing of string, of course).

Dear record companies, please ensure you make some progress on this sooner rather than later.

Now I must return to that CD review and try to say something tactful about the tenor. Over and out.

Update: for more on why we must phase out plastic, read Gaby Hinsliff here.