I was definitely a good boy this year because Santa left a shiny new Xbox Series X under the Christmas tree — with my name on it. It wasn't wrapped in gift wrapping paper because, well, to be honest with you, I bought it for myself. It had my name on it only because UPS requires every shipment to have a named recipient. But hey, this was all done in the Christmas spirit.
The Xbox came in a plain cardboard box. If it didn't, a thief would surely steal the Xbox-branded box from my doorstep. I've seen companies mask expensive products in cardboard boxes that read, "horse feed," or something inexpensive. I did buy expensive gaming headphones from Best Buy and they also came in a plain cardboard box but, it had Best Buy branded tape all over it. Why leave that cue for thieves?
I've waited years to get this Xbox. They have been in limited supply due to the pandemic-caused chip shortage. I undressed the Xbox the same way a lover might take off their partner's lingerie - slowly and methodically.
People love unboxing videos on the internet (this Xbox Series X one has half a million views). Probably because designers make them so satisfying. There has to be some psychological reason for it. The customer's joy from a unique unboxing experience builds affinity to the brand or something like that. This makes packaging not just for the sake of shipping items safely, but also to build an experience. It's a cool concept but, unfortunately, unboxing experiences create excess waste.
The Xbox box swivels open like a laptop. In the middle of the box is the Xbox, almost floating inside. The cords and controller are inside a cardboard flap above the Xbox. It’s cool and simple but, there was something else that caught my eye.
Three pieces of hard black foam protect the Xbox. Foam is great for shipping because it's light, strong, and heat resistant. However, it sucks because it can't be recycled in the blue bin - no matter how many companies throw the recycling logo on them.
The foam wasn’t styrofoam, which tends to break up. It was quality LDPE. They had a weak glue that stuck them to the box but it was easy to pull out the foam and separate them from the box.
This was surely intentional.
Foam can't be recycled in the blue bin but cardboard can. If the foam couldn't be separated from the cardboard, the whole thing would be unrecyclable and, therefore, trash.
Being able to separate the foam from the cardboard is a Cradle to Cradle principle. Different materials need to go into different streams. When products (in this case packaging) can't be separated by their materials, they become monstrous hybrids, items that have materials that can’t be salvaged because they are mixed. Another example of this is a Mr. Coffee carafe, which is a combination of inseparable glass and plastic.
I, being the noble citizen I am, put the foam in the trash and the Xbox branded box in the recycling bin. I didn't save the foam to take to a specialty recycler, although a past me would have done so. I want to give kudos to Microsoft for designing their package this way but, how many people are separating the foam and cardboard? I imagine it's not very many.
But to be fair, they are buying an Xbox to pew pew noobs on the internet. It’s why I bought it.
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