Friday, 20 August 2010

Overpackaging In Seoul: Has Anything Changed?

A bit over a year ago I made this video to point out the extreme level of overpackaging many products have in Seoul: even Wifeoseyo's mom is shocked by the overpackaging when she comes in from Daegu.

The question is: has it gotten any better since then?


Gibbering Madness said...

Over packaging in common all throughout Asia.

The Seoul Searcher said...

Korea at the moment is all about the green movement.

Yet things like this make me laugh.

Roboseyo said...

I sure hope the word "green" doesn't just become another meaningless buzzword like "hub" - I've been told that Korea has invested a lot in alternative energy... I believe the last time I criticized Korea for draining wetlands a K-defender dropped a two-pager in my comments... but yea, overpackaging is such an unnecessary kind of waste.

Anonymous said...

but in case of the video it's nothing bad- youc don't have to eat all of them at once ... and anyway western 'going green' usually means cutting costs not prices

Manic Pixie Dream Girl said...

The chocolate doesn't look all that fresh, either, so it doesn't appear to be doing its job.

Caryn Ouwehand said...

I don't know if it has gotten worse, but now I want some chocolate after watching that video...

you couldn't have found some overpackaged toilet paper or something now could you!?


Foreigner Joy said...

To answer whether it has gotten better I would want to know whether Seoul-ites consciousness are for more green types of packaging. Are people who live in Seoul even aware of packaging as an environmental problem? I is really the problem here.

chiam said...

You bought it, your support it.

Packaging has a lot to do with cutting down on bugs in your house. Opening a box of something and then not finishing it invites bugs. Packaging means that you can eat only a portion of the box.

If you separate your trash the way you are expected to, then all that packaging is recycled.

I wish you'd stop looking for things to bitch about and start thinking of reasons things are the way they are.

Roboseyo said...

Have I gotten that bad, Chiam? Really?

Getting a box of cookies in a package that can be closed again, the way we did in Canada, seems to be enough to prevent bugs -- there's no need to individually wrap every chocolate, or cookie, is there?

chiam said...

Korea is different than Canada. Cookies and chocolates are often put out at meetings, interviews, and other office and social gatherings. Having them individually wrapped makes sense.

And as I said, recycling in Korea is far more advanced than it is in Canada due to the lack of space for landfills and the amount of energy that can be created by a nation so lacking in energy resources. Plastics and other packaging materials have an almost immediate market. This is not the case in Canada where recycled materials sit in yards waiting for buyers. After a certain amount of time, if buyers are not found, those "recyclable" materials are then landfilled anyway.

Anonymous said...

Recycling is advanced in Korea?
At the Fortune 500 company I work at, we have different bags for recycling: paper goes in the blue bag, bottles/cans in yellow and others in red.

Yet, we put all the bags in the same dumpster outside. I've been told that the bags get sorted at the landfill/incinerator/whatever. Yet I doubt those bags will not tear, especially considering that the rubbish trucks compress their loads to save space.

How could it be better instead of just something for show? Separate collection bins, education on what is and what isn't recyclable.

chiam said...

Separating garbage at the curb with blue boxes, gray boxes, etc was only carried out in Ontario because it would be impossible to implement a taxed bag sceme. It was also found, that a taxed bag scheme in Ontario would cause more dumping.

Koreans recycle lightbulbs, batteries, clothes, paper, plastic, etc. Everything is separated at another facility, but the various bags do help put taxes where taxes are due.

Have you ever seen people grabbing boxes and paper out of garbage heaps in Seoul? I think you have. Well there are areas in Seoul full of these people going through bags separating garbage.

It's fun to think Korea is backward in everything except internet speed, but having a population willing to work hard for a paultry minimum wage does wonders for solid waste management practices.

tellos said...

It didn't stop the chocolate to look bad :D

Aaron McKenzie said...

I once tended to see all of this as "overpackaging," too, but my view has changed in recent years.

The chief purpose of packaging is to decrease waste, spoilage and breakage by protecting the product. Perhaps the current packaging methods actually protect products to such an extent that the net amount of "garbage" is reduced.

Besides, packaging adds to the cost of production, which companies are always trying minimize. Any company that reduces its use of packaging material can thus reduce the price of its products and/or increase its profits. I doubt companies would overpackage their products just for the hell of it.

So perhaps there's a good reason for the current packaging habits, which we're all somehow missing.

Anonymous said...

Robo, I don't think you're complaining too much...


This was perhaps a missed opportunity to really examine the issue. Some good points have been made in the comments here, so maybe you could have considered other ways of looking at the situation.

Other possible aspects (some of which others have already mentioned) to consider:

1. Eating/Snacking culture.
Perhaps this is more sanitary than leaving a dish of uncovered snacks out for people.
And, it may save waste as uneaten snacks can be put away again (without becoming stale, spoiled, etc.).
This kind of packaging may also encourage (or be a result of) a culture of eating less junk/snack food. That's probably a good thing.

2. Alternative types of packaging and storage.
Some creative packaging (resealable bags, boxes that can be closed again, etc.) may help, but may increase cost as well as the volume of packaging used. This would help prevent waste resulting from spoilage, but manufacturing and recycling would become more complicated.
Going back to the old practice of using your own storage container (biscuit tin/cookie jar, for example) is another good option. There are various products available in Korea that serve this function (e.g. Lock&Lock Glassware storage is air-tight, tough, and easily washed). However, these are not always practical for food on the go or in some business situations where food is provided to a group.

3. Problems with recycling.
Recycling requires a lot of energy (in the process itself as well as transportation, sorting, and so on), and is flawed (or at least less than ideal) in several ways.
Recycling produces waste - it's very rare that you can do it without producing more pollution (although this may be less than when manufacturing from raw materials) - and some of the original material is lost during the process.
Some types of plastic cannot be recycled, or only a small percentage of the original volume remains in the recycled product.
Many materials are 'down-cycled', which means the recycled material is of a much lower grade than the original and can only be used in cheaper, weaker varieties of product.

Check out The Story of Stuff for some interesting information on other ways of thinking about solutions to such problems of excess consumption and waste.