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Costco shopper raises questions with photo of product found on store shelves: 'Preventing theft with a larger package, maybe?'

"I wholeheartedly believe that this should be illegal."

“I wholeheartedly believe that this should be illegal."

Photo Credit: iStock

Environmentally savvy shoppers have started to shine a light on excessive packaging at stores across America. That includes wasteful extra layers of packaging added by the store to products that already came prewrapped. One Redditor just posted an example from Costco on r/Anticonsumption.

What happened?

The photo, captioned "WTF is this packaging?" shows a small 1.7-ounce container of Clinique hydrating cream. The tiny tub already comes packaged inside a cardboard box from the manufacturer with all of the branding information on it.

However, in the photo, Costco went a step further and encased the cardboard box inside a plastic clamshell many times bigger than it. Most of the package is just clear, empty space, with the box suspended at the center.

Photo Credit: Reddit

"Preventing theft with a larger package, maybe?" suggested one user.

While a possibility, other users still didn't think that was a good enough reason. "I wholeheartedly believe that this should be illegal," said a second Redditor. "There should be strict codes regulating packaging itself in proportion to the product being sold. Everything about this is wildly unsustainable. Hire someone and put it behind a d**n counter."

Why does the plastic clamshell matter?

For buyers, the plastic is an extra annoyance. Clamshell packaging can be frustrating to open and can even cause injuries.

For the planet, that plastic represents a more serious problem. Plastic waste is almost impossible to recycle, and most single-use plastic either ends up in a landfill or becomes litter.

Once in the environment, it stays long-term, not breaking down naturally for a hundred years. The small pieces that do break off don't decay; instead, they become polluting microplastics.

What is Costco doing about plastic waste?

Costco did not respond to TCD's email request for comment on this wasteful packaging practice.

This excessive plastic packaging on a small product might be a fluke. The big-box retailer is typically a good choice for minimizing plastic waste since larger packages mean less packaging per item.

Costco also has the issue of excess packaging on its radar. In a spotlight last July, the company announced that it had started to adopt new packaging guidelines, starting with its Kirkland Signature brand. It intended to use less total packaging, less plastic, and more recycled and recyclable materials.

"The goal is to reduce packaging waste, while still protecting products, ensuring food safety and complying with laws and regulations," said Tim Wahlquist, head of Costco's packaging team. "It's a complex process because new packaging must be an improvement — for example, the cardboard for boxes that replace plastic should come from certified forests, ensuring the wood fiber used in them is responsibly sourced."

How can I reduce plastic waste?

Besides choosing brands with plastic-free packaging and opting for larger packages when possible, you can minimize plastic waste by looking for reusable alternatives to single-use items. For example, try a metal razor and drink from a reusable water bottle.

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