Packaging Insanity

by Don Boudreaux on December 31, 2010

in Competition, Complexity & Emergence, Environment, Everyday Life, Not from the Onion

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Applauding British legislation “allowing citizens to sue companies for excess packaging,” Scott Cassel declares that “the United States is far behind” (Letters, Dec. 31).

A nation is hardly “far behind” by refusing to create a cause of action based upon nebulous damages (How will courts measure such harm?) and upon an even more nebulous ‘offense’ (What, exactly, is “excess” packaging – and how on God’s green earth is a court to make such a determination for each of the countless different products available on the market?).

Moreover, producers already have strong incentives to avoid excess packaging.  Not only do packaging materials cost producers money, heavier packaging means higher shipping costs.  That businesses respond positively to these incentives to find ever-better ways to keep packaging optimal is revealed in the data; as reported earlier this year by economist Daniel Benjamin, “Over the past 25 years, the weights of individual packages have been reduced by amounts ranging from 30 percent (2-liter soft drink bottles) to 70 percent (plastic grocery sacks and trash bags)” [available here].

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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