Friday, April 18, 2008

Minsters and monstrous packaging

click photo to enlarge
As I sat at my desk and processed this photograph of Southwell Minster, Nottingham- shire, I was surrounded by a pile of debris that made me despair. It was there because the other day I ordered a 4GB compact flash card online, and expected to receive just that. How naive I am!

The card came in the small, useful, protective, plastic case that will be familiar to anyone who uses these devices. That's what I expected. However, I also received:
- a small padded, zipped, nylon case with a keyring, packaged in a cellophane bag;
- a mini-CD with data recovery software (inside its own sleeve);
- a 24-page User Guide, in multiple languages with warranty details;
- three further pieces of card and paper that advertised the manufacturer's range of memory cards, urged me to buy Capture One Pro image processing software, and told me how to responsibly dispose of the card;
- a strong, sealed, moulded clear plastic package holding most of the above;
- a colourful box (with hidden security tag) holding everything.

Why the manufacturer thinks I need two containers for one card I really don't know. The sole effect of the recovery software was to make me wonder about the reliability of the product and the value of its lifetime guarantee! As for the card enclosures, whilst the warranty information is doubtless a legal requirement, the rest of it was of no use whatsoever: and a User Guide for a memory card is laughably pointless. The plastic package was of the sort penetrable only by a small nuclear device (or a very strong pair of scissors), and yes, once again I got scratched by the sharp edges as I fought my way into it. As I looked at the glossy box that contained all of the above I idly wondered how many memory cards it would hold. So I measured it. The answer is about 95! If they were in the small, useful cases it would still hold 32! Am I alone in thinking that the packaging a product has should have a teeny bit of correlation to the size of the object it holds? I imagine the producer of this device has an environmental policy that it proudly trumpets to shareholders and any member of the public that asks about such a thing. But it's not worth the paper it's written on if it sells its products in such an environmentally unsustainable way.

I gave another glance at the pile of rubbish on my desk as I processed my photograph and noticed on the box, under the name and logo, the company's slogan - "Store your world in ours". I reflected that therein lies the problem. There aren't multiple worlds, there's only one, and it's a world that we all share. The danger in being driven solely by your own view of the world, whether as a company or as an individual, is that you follow your own selfish interest, lose any sense of the absurd, forget the duty we owe to each other and the planet, and neglect the steps that are necessary to sustain us. Oh, and supply compact flash cards in a ludicrous amount of packaging!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off