Monday, April 20, 2009

Obsessions and packaging


I find the packaging of some things here in Italy odd. As I go about my daily business, I run into numerous examples of why-do-they-do-that? packaging, but only two come to mind at the moment. Take soy milk (pictured above in cappuccino flavor), for example. It often comes in these Tetrapak containers that require you to cut off a corner, which in the scheme of things is not that big a problem. But then the soy milk dribbles in your fridge after each use and the package is never fully "closed." And it bothers me that the milk then flows through a hole opened by scissors kept in a cluttered kitchen drawer. There are many things here that are sold in packages that once opened can't really be closed. My mother-in-law used to close things up with Scotch tape until I began bringing Chip Clips back from the U.S. in bulk. I grew up in the 1970s where Tupperware was the name of the game in suburban kitchens featuring wild patterned wallpaper and appliances in shades of orange, green and brown. I appreciate my food items being properly sealed.

Then there are those Pastiglie Leone candies (photo above taken from Candy Blog where you can link for an actual review), which are beautifully - if not functionally - packaged. Outside the box is wrapped in paper, which is a nice touch. It reminds me of the more traditional pharmacies here where they go the extra mile and wrap your things in special apothecary paper. The problem is that once the paper is off, the box never stays fully closed, meaning that the little candy dots fall into all of the folds and crevices of my oversized bag. And with what these babies cost, I certainly don't throw them away just because they fell out of their box and into my pen case. Doesn't make much sense that I get skeeved out by milk that may have touched my tainted scissors but will eat candies with pen marks on them...

P.S. I realize that after my last post, this is a bit of "aria fritta" ("fried air" as they say in Italian - "fluff" as we might say in English), but it was on my mind after digging a million cinnamon dots out of the bottom of my bag.

14 comments:

J.Doe said...

Can you empty the cappuccino flavored soy milk into a plastic container meant for pouring once it is opened so it doesn't spill?

Anonymous said...

Many things irritate me about packaging here. IN particular, it seems NOTHING is easy open. If you are not at home with the full complement of scissors, various knives etc then you are out of luck. Maybe it's because people tend to buy things at various markets and small stores where things are easily packaged instore (eg sliced meats vs pre packaged supermarket ones).

The other thing that annoys me is how MUCH packaging things have. Seems to me so much superfluous layers. For eg eggs that come in a plastic box but then have a cardboard sleeve around them. Ditto for yoghurt. Packets of crackers that come individually wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard sleeve, inside a foil wrapper. I could go on and on with examples. And the THICKNESS of most of the layers of said packaging and supermarket bags. Wonder how long they take to biodegrade. Maybe it's just me who tends to buy more stuff from the supermarket than the average italian (probably) but i do try to recycle as much as I can.

Re milk (not sure about the soy varieties) there are some that have a plastic spout thingy on the top, although they spill when you pour if you aren't careful. I have seen some 'juice' containers that have an actual closeable screw cap in a tetra pack body so maybe you can shop around.

Those pastilles I have never seen before but when we were up North G bought some as they are 'classics' and hard to find here. Are they expensive? They sure taste yummy but i see what you mean about the boxes! Vanessa

Emmina said...

Believe it or not I was thinking about this just the other day, as I reached into the fridge for a carton of milk and the whole thing exploded in my hand. It appears that gripping it too hard as you pick it up is not a good idea with these 'corner cut off' packages.... Fluffy but relevant I reckon...

KC said...

I hate tetrapak too, for the same reasons. I agree with Vanessa about how things are over-packaged! Why do crackers need to be sealed into packets of six or eight withing larger packages? The same thing is done with savoiardi. I could go on and on.

Saretta said...

My answer to keeping open foodstuffs fresh is Ziplock bags. I can't find them here in Italy...but anyone coming to visit from the States is required to bring me some new ones. The ones I already have are prized treasures and I wash and reuse them until they fall apart!

erin :: the olive notes said...

i agree about the Pastiglie...I love the packaging though, but wish we could keep the paper intact or something!

chenchy said...

This post made me laugh as I recalled sawing a milk carton open when visiting family in Italy...my aunt had stepped out and when presented with opening a milk carton with no scissors handy....went at it with a knife.

Kataroma said...

As a half Swede I hate to admit this but Tetrapak is a Swedish invention. So don't blame the poor Italians!

We're battling an ant invasion here so my husband went to IKEA and bought a million tupperware type containers and we're trying to use them for everything including things which comes packaged like baby cereal. Hard to tell things apart but better than crunching down on an ant when eating breakfast. :(

Michellanea said...

J. Doe,
You think like I do! I did try putting the milk in a plastic container, but it takes on a plastic taste!

Vanessa,
Yes, it's odd. There is too little packaging on some things (lacking in keep-fresh seals and easy ways to close) and too much on other things. Those candies are pretty pricey.

Emmina,
Yep, I've done that before too! The milk volcano in the fridge!

KC,
My major problem is not with Tetrapak. I just don't understand why some things don't have proper closures.

Saretta,
Yep, I am all stocked up on Ziplocs, and I am constantly asking myself is something is Ziploc-worthy or not.

Erin,
Or if the box were a bit more robust and didn't open at both ends making the candies fall out.

Chenchy,
I once couldn't find the normal scissors in the drawer and was left with the option of using manicure scissors (gross) or a knife. I went for the knife.

Kataroma,
Nothing against the Swedes! It's not Tetrapak as much as not being able to close certain packages. Speaking of Tetrapak, has anyone seen the big billboards around Milan that say something like "Tetrapak is now recyclable!" I don't know where to put it though - with paper or plastic.

scatteredmoments said...

I am really amazed at the gum packaging. I usually end up with more that half of the box on the bottom of my bag! Thank goodness for my snack size zip-locks.

Cath said...

Try Provamel soya milk instead - imo opinion much nicer and has a "shuttable" (?) lid!

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Anonymous said...

Well Tetra Pak is one of the greatest innovation in the packaging. There are packages available with various closures to close the package just like a any of the bottle.

jcrglobalcaplaw said...

I find it peculiar that this kind of TetraPak (that cannot be re-sealed) is so popular in Milan because I find that the Milanese are pretty much obsessed with hygiene of this type. My then-girlfriend hit the ceiling when I put my suitcase on the bed (fully made bed, at that) to unpack it. Her reaction made me think something alive was crawling out of my suitcase (and no, I won't make the obvious joke).