Packaging and Recycling
These are two subjects I know little about. But you don’t have to know much before you know you don’t like something. And I don’t much care for either of these. Often, one leads to the other, but one often fails because of the other. I’ll examine one before the other as if they are separate, but our abject failure of consumerism forever links them. It doesn’t have to be this way. We could choose differently. We could reexamine our need for beautiful packaging and cut down on our failed attempts at recycling. We could save the planet we so desperately cling to.
Did you know that that decorative urn you’ll end up in will first contain your ashes in a zip-lock bag? I bet you never suspected that, did ya? Hopefully, that barcode on your toe will now match the one on the plastic bag. Your loved ones wouldn’t want you confused with the homeless guy whose body lay claimless for three weeks. How about that smart-looking container they’ll present to your family? It’s dignified, simple, and sufficient to be placed somewhere out of sight after being seen for all of fifteen minutes. It is a nice box, though. It’s made of fortified cardboard with a chemically lined plastic coating to ensure it will never decay.
Before your family takes you home, the fine folks at the funeral place will place your baggy-filled cardboard box into another suitable cardboard box for transport. They’ll even provide you and your new home with a foil-lined bag for ease of carrying. Your grieving family can throw you over their shoulder as they walk out of the parlor past all those good-looking, higher-priced urns. They’ll glance briefly but decide to wait. I’ll check the selection at Costco, Uncle Charles will say.
“Hey, look at this one, honey. Air vents. Who knew out-gassing from inside an urn was a thing?”
And you thought filling up the blue barrel was enough to constitute a good life. See, now you know, even in death, you’ll be ruining the planet. Had you only separated paper from plastic.
For me, it all started with the Cap’n, Captain Crunch. As a child, the Cap’n was my go-to cereal. Fortified, sugarfied, and marketed at me and about a billion other kids. Those delicious morsels of delight come in a box with puzzles, quizzes, and prizes guaranteed to keep a kid interested well into their third helping. Although they say the box is recyclable, the red dye and other inks ensure the local groundwater looks like a cross between Milk of Magnesia and Gatorade. But what was most disturbing about the Cap’n and almost every other cereal out there is the lie they perpetrate on us.
First, your family-size cereal box contains a waxy plastic bag covered in unpronounceable preservatives. These carcinogenic chemicals guarantee that your cereal will stay fresh until the return of the Incas. The problem is that there is no way to safely open this bag without hopelessly ripping it down three sides. This regrettable action ruins any promise of freshness longer than your current breakfast. No wonder we lost all those indigenous tribes. Entire civilizations have been lost due to over-packaging.
Did you know that in the cereal manufacturing process, there is a trade secret of the rat-to-box ratio? I bet you didn’t know that. Yes, for health reasons, the Food and Drug Administration has mandated a limit on the number of cereal boxes that can also contain dead rats. However, I wouldn’t worry about the rodents in your cereal. Remember all those preservatives on the cereal baggy I talked about? Yes, those chemicals are like little, microscopic friends protecting you and fortifying your body for the millennium. The dead rats, you say. Don’t worry, I say. Sugary, delicious cereal fortified with added protein. Author’s note: this section is likely true but hard to verify. In my life, and now in old age, I’m on my twelve-thousand box of the Cap’n, no protein yet, just tiny morsels of sugary delight. This is a public health service I do for you every breakfast.
What about the lie, you ask? Your first guess might be the three useless layers of protection. It must be the preservatives, the bag, or the box, right? You were sure this lie was all those harmful chemicals lining the bag inside the box, didn’t you? You hardly notice all the preservatives and that life-altering, unnatural stuff we put into our bodies. Nope, that’s not the lie. Those chemicals are all listed plainly on the box, written in .003 font using red-dye 37. Don’t blame me if you didn’t read it.
The lie is more devious and cunning than the chemicals, useless baggy, or the colorful box. Cleaver, “moth to a light” advertising, and rampant consumerism have doomed us all to extinction.
The egregious, heinous crime is the one that every child experiences when they first open that new box of cereal. Sometimes, children need to experience life head-on. Sharing life unfiltered gives your urchins that sense of frustration necessary to extinguish all their hopes for a happy and prosperous future. Perhaps you’ve tried to mold your kids and teach them failure by buying them lotto tickets. If not, I highly recommend this for all new parents.
The lesson goes like this: buy your cute darling offspring a lotto ticket every week. Just one ticket per child per week. Don’t destroy their tiny spirits too soon. The trick is to wait. Don’t be the first out of the gate. Watch as the light of hope fades from their cute little pupils. Let them experience failure firsthand. Eventually, they’ll admit it. “Sorry, Dad, I didn’t win.” Get over it, you’ll say. “You’ll never win. Life is stacked against you.” Repeat this lesson every week until they drop out of junior college and vow to never move out of your basement.
Sorry, I got sidetracked by fond memories, back to packaging.
The worst lie of all time is the one right before your eyes. All children experience this at age twelve. Or maybe six if your child is gifted. Today, children are all gifted. Your sugar-craving demons hold their new cereal box, proud that they are. Lift it, shake it, and turn it all around. The box is as tall as they are, but something isn’t quite right. The box is big, the plastic bag inside is as impossible to open as ever, and then they see it. Your coveted Cap’n is lying there in a mostly empty box.
“Contents are sold by weight, not volume.” What does that even mean? It’ll be six more years until they’ll learn about weights and measures. Last night’s homework was on basic shapes, two-dimensional shapes, that is. They won’t even learn about cubes and cones until next year. “Contents might shift in packaging.” Now, there’s a lesson. Two years before learning fractions, they’re introduced to irony.
“Hey, kids, I’m home. Here’s your lotto tickets. . .”