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Packaging, mail often wasteful

A Jonesborough shop last fall was selling some special teas. With the USDA organic logo displayed on one, a Sencha grey tea from China was noted also to be “certified organic by QAI.” The packaging shown as done in Canada, a company in Arizona “produced and distributed” the product.
The Canadians had done an excessively thorough job. An outermost cellophane sheath, removable only with the aid of a knife, wrapped a shiny paper carton. A lidded plastic box inside, unspecified as to plastics composition and shaped like a double laundry tub held the tea, its assorted leafage packed in individual, “flow-through infusers” of equally unnoted textile or other material nature.
The four-layered, overdone packaging called to mind a satirical essay by Heinrich Boll, Nobel prize laureate for literature in 1972. His tale of a day in the life of “The thrower-away” suggests such fanciful, exaggerated reactions by people to “physical exertion [when] incapable of penetrating” massive layers of wrapping that “clinics are rapidly filling with patients who complain of an attack of nerves.” The problem is widespread, meriting some thought, the story protagonist muses; an “expert thrower-away” might helpfully be posted in stores, perhaps, to free purchased articles of their packaging or wrapping.
Mainly, the tale castigates the other — junk mail — waste issue of our day. The protagonist had found it disturbing even as a child, he reflects, to see his father “take [such] mail from the mailman and throw it into the waste-paper basket without looking at it.” Having them thrown away without as much as a glance made no sense to him and offended his sense of saving, his “innate propensity for economy.”
Having spent years of his adult life in calculating and documenting, with scientific time-study data, the mail-sorting cost to people and businesses, the story sees him perform this task in a large insurance firm, twice daily following mail delivery. His pre-sorting saves the company hundreds of work hours every day, the time it takes one to “open advertising circulars with or without pictures, satisfy oneself of [their] uselessness” and throw them away.
One avenue through which much uninvited–solicitation– mail may reach us concerned even Benjamin Franklin. He was asked, he wrote in his autobiography, for “a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited,” to the purpose of being approached for donations toward erecting a new Presbyterian meeting house. Franklin refused the request, judging it “unbecoming in me to mark them out to be worried by other beggars.”
Germany’s government folks seem to have taken to heart their Nobel writer’s “thrower-away” criticism of resource waste in mail and excessive packaging. Similar to our “do not call” list, their postal service may not leave advertising in mail boxes if citizens request that it not.