Read this ONLY IF you hate clamshell packaging that can't be opened

By Deon Roberts

The Daily Record Newswire

We've all been there.

At least once in your life, you've walked out of a store, sat in your vehicle after buying some gadget you've been dying to get and realized: ''I'm going to have to wait until I get home so I can use something super sharp to pierce this stupid, industrial-strength packaging.''

So you drive along, the packaging mocking you from the passenger's seat the whole ride home, as your beloved gadget remains trapped in its plastic prison.

Once you're home, you grab a knife and wrestle with the packaging, hoping you don't amputate a part of yourself, or the product, in the process.

If you're like me, you tell yourself you won't buy something packaged like that again.

And, if you're like me and have kids, it's hard to avoid such packaging, which seems to be what all of your kid's birthday presents come in.

But there's some good news for those of us who loathe those so-called clamshell and blister packages. See, it takes crude oil -- the same stuff your gasoline is made from -- to make it.

And as anyone who drives knows, the price of gasoline is pretty high, although it's eased in the past few weeks or so.

Still, the price of crude is high enough that it could spell the end for heavy-duty plastic packaging, as retailers and manufacturers look for cheaper alternatives during these tough economic times, according to a New York Times story this month.

Suddenly we have a reason to like high oil prices, or at least a reason to not hate them as much.

Here's how major retailers are waging a war on plastic packaging, according to the Times story:

--Target has gotten rid of the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts. The company has also switched to new light bulb packages to eliminate plastic and is selling socks held together by paper bands instead of plastic bags.

--Wal-Mart is pushing its suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers. The world's largest retailer has also made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones as a way to reduce plastic.

--At Home Depot, Husky tools are being switched from clamshell packaging to paperboard, and EcoSmart LED bulbs will be sold in a corrugated box, not a plastic case.

Environmentalists will surely be happy if there's less plastic packaging, but every consumer should benefit, because the cost for products should go down.

But the death of thick plastic packaging won't be good for everyone.

Mooresville-based Zibra, the company that invented the Open It scissors, which were created in response to such packaging, could see sales decline if there are fewer clamshell packages on the shelves.

Lane Ball, marketing director for Zibra, which was launched in 2005, had a positive outlook on the phone with me this week when I called him to see what the assault on plastic packaging might mean to Open It.

''That's a very valid question,'' said Ball, who said he was aware of the New York Times story.

Ball thinks all the talk about cutting back on plastic is ''a nice PR campaign.''

Until there's a better alternative to clamshell packaging when it comes to preventing theft, retailers, who lose a lot of money through theft, will go with clamshell packaging, Ball said.

For Zibra, the important thing is that the multiuse design of Open It -- the scissors also feature screwdrivers and a bottle opener -- will keep consumers interested in the product even if there's less clamshell packaging in the world.

Like so many other companies, Zibra might have to find a way to reinvent its product in an ever-changing world.

Published: Mon, Jun 27, 2011