Inventor John Ward sets his sights on the perils packaging

2022-09-09 22:57:29 By : Ms. Renee Chan

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Madcap inventor John Ward sets his sights on the perils of packaging in this week's column...

I have a pet hate that never ceases to amaze me in this day and age.

When there are so many people lecturing us about waste and how we should be looking after the planet for future generations, it’s annoying to receive something, large or small, with so much packing material - be it plastic, cardboard or paper - so that the object defies description as to what it might be.

I had an item arrive recently that was in a cardboard box. Once opened up there was a layer or three of screwed-up paper to ‘protect’ it from goodness knows what before I actually saw the box with the item in.

It was a pair of supposed ‘hi-tech’ cable cutters - but the box was sealed in a plastic skin - or rather it was shrunk to the box for another layer.

Once I finally carved my way in, I was then confronted with the preformed polystyrene shaped outline of the cutters with the item lying in.

However, there was also another plastic skin covering that (can’t have enough plastic shrink skins I always say!) to hack through before actually getting the tool out to examine it.

It does look the business for what I wanted it for. However, the nicely, bright coloured printed label really meant the world to me as it said: ‘Please recycle wisely’.

There were no hints or tips as to what to recycle wisely.

Was it the brightly coloured and printed label? Was it the cutters? Could I use them first? Or did it mean the box with many plastic skins? The screwed up paper? The outer or main box with my name and address on?

So many questions, so many boxes and wrapping materials!

We have come a long way in the wrapping business over recent years.

Whereas before we made do with just a box with an address label now, as outlined above, it’s all apparently geared up to generate waste for the sake of it.

It all brought to mind a packaging masterclass I had witnessed some years ago, in a place of gainful employment where I was doing my thing.

The company was quite ‘stone age’ in its running and operating methods - so much so that the order of management, or what passed for it, was quite dire but it went something like this: if our most glorious immediate leader was not at work, then the supposed ‘second in command’ took the reins as it were. If he was not there it passed down the chain until it arrived at the last one in or newest member then being ‘in charge’.

I had worked out that if 27 others in front of me were unavailable, it would be my turn in running the joint - Dave the maintenance man said he wasn’t interested but it didn’t upset the ‘system’ too much as far as I knew.

Being so old fashioned and set in their ways, I often wondered how Dickens would have described or written about it.

This being Sid Dickens, of course, who was my mum’s milkman and would-be author plus the linesman for the local amateur football club.

Being a small family concern we were blessed with the presence of the owner’s son - who had more degrees than a thermometer but was sadly lacking in the common sense stuff, a gift he displayed quite often with usually disastrous outcomes.

My grandad said at least two things that money couldn’t buy were credibility and common sense.

Although he didn’t know or had never met the above prodigal son, who shone as a beacon of those examples.

Once he approached me with a six foot length of wood, about two inches square, then asked if I could saw four bits off, about three inches each long and ‘not bothered which end its sawn from’ (!?).

Once sawn, I went to see the maestro with the four pieces, explained he had an ‘off cut’ five feet long, to which he suggested it may come in handy for further use - as you do.

Next he placed the four pieces neatly in the middle of a very large cardboard box.

Balanced on the said pieces was a very expensive ‘brain’ that was part of a very much complex machine that controlled assorted manufacturing processes.

The brain in question had developed a malfunction so was being sent to the manufacturers to be updated, reprogrammed and possibly given a new set of false teeth for all we knew.

But it was very, very expensive hence the ‘tailor made’ boxing up malarkey.

It looked like a top tier of a wedding cake perched on the wooden blocks.

I asked if he would be filling it with polystyrene chips or whatever and he told me to ‘shush’ as he had ‘the matter well in hand’, which was not thrilling to hear.

He then sealed the box lids down with heavy tape as he moved on to stage two of his masterpiece.

Next he took a pair of scissors and punched a hole in the side of the box and inserted the nozzle of a large can/dispenser of insulation or expanding foam, the sort as used in housing between walls that fills just about every crack and cranny there is in its path.

This ‘process’ was very educational for us mere degree-less onlookers as he beamed his best smile, then directed it be addressed then sent off to the manufacturers.

The said manufacturers were amazed to see one of their units solidly encased in expanded foam.

In fact, due to the intricate wiring, circuit boards etc it was basically rendered useless as it was nigh impossible to separate it.

Once word got back to his father, who did his usual unflinching act of staring ahead, he spoke: “Well, you have to make allowances”.

Although, in this case it was about eleven thousand of them - plus VAT and carriage.