Brushing up their act

There was a story doing the rounds in German industry a few years ago about the ridiculous randomness of legislation designed to cut packaging waste. I never saw confirmation of it, but it’s worth sharing.

Cooped up in a box

Cooped up in a box

Apparently some authority decided that toothpaste cartons were unnecessary, even though companies using too much packaging has to pay “recycling tax” under the Green Dot scheme (DSD) . The tubes should be sold without.

So out goes all the toothpaste into the trade in bare tubes (which had to be redesigned to fit the bar codes, at the expense of all companies – a nightmare for any product manager trying to quietly manage the marketing mix). Of course without the square carton the tubes of toothpaste on-shelf looked terrible. Packs lying around haphazardly. Poor presentation, bad branding, a mess. So they developed special trays to stick the tubes into. Now the packs all stand in line, upright, neatly displaying brand and benefit.

Toothpaste trays

Toothpaste trays

All this time the association of German blahblah-whatever-makers was grinding its teeth, only able to stand and watch on, powerless.

When the whole exercise was over, the association of blahblah checked the amount of packaging in the retail trade and factories (compared to the amount used before they all had to change the toothpaste packaging). Less packaging: the toothpaste cartons. More packaging: the trays to hold each toothpaste tube in place on shelf! Bottom line: A LOT MORE PACKAGING.

Yes, overall, the trays (which then had to be dealt with by supermarkets, much to their frustration) had added to recycling problems in Germany, not helped eradicate them. Doh.
(see also: excess packaging)

Alex Woodruff

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