The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 20, 2010

Logitech Webcam C210: More Packaging than Product

I’ve been looking for a webcam for a while because I want to be able to meet with people via Skype rather than travel to meet up in person. I’ve done way too much flying this year, and all those emissions are weighing hard on my conscience.

I hoped to find a secondhand webcam rather than buying a new one. But after an unfortunate incident with a Radio Shack employee last month, I ended up with a $20 store credit and nothing else to spend it on. So I applied the credit toward the purchase of a very basic Logitech webcam.

Check out what Arya and I found when I got home and opened the box:

Logitech webcam 210 packaging

The camera, install disk, and instruction manual together weigh 4.3 ounces. The packaging material weighs 4.4 ounces — more than the product itself! The plastic window will be added to my tally in September. The cardboard box will go into the recycling bin. But I can’t let that be the end of the story.  Some small amounts of packaging are unavoidable, but this amount is outrageous.  So I sent the following letter to Logitech’s VP of Products. We’ll see how he responds.

September 19, 2010

Junien Labrousse, Executive VP, Products
Logitech
6505 Kaiser Dr.
Fremont, CA 94555 USA

Dear Mr. Labrousse:

Recently, I purchased a Logitech Webcam C210 from Radio Shack in Berkeley, CA, and upon opening the box, I was astounded by the product to packaging ratio. The webcam itself is 3” wide x 3” long x 1.5” tall. The box, on the other hand, is 8.25” x 3” x 6”. That’s 11 times the volume of the camera itself! (See attached photo.)

Mr. Labrousse, since you are the VP of Products, I urge you to find a more sustainable way to package Logitech’s products. There are better uses for the planet’s resources than disposable packaging. I purchased the webcam as a way to reduce my own carbon footprint since having a webcam will allow me to cut travel emissions by teleconferencing rather than meeting in person. However, I am also very mindful of the amount of waste I am generating from disposable packaging (especially plastic) and am trying to reduce that amount as much as possible as well.

You may think that one webcam box is insignificant. But multiply the amount of virgin paper and plastic in this one box by the total amount of product that you sell annually. The amount of waste is staggering. I do notice that there is a “chasing arrows” symbol at the bottom of the box. What does that symbol mean? How much of the package is actually made from recycled content? As far as I can tell, none of it is. And while the cardboard may be recyclable, the plastic window is surely not.

Mr. Labrousse, I look forward to your response and to learning what steps Logitech is taking to reduce the amount of packaging waste it generates in the future. I and my blog readers will be interested to hear your answer.

Sincerely,

Beth Terry
FakePlasticFish. com

FYI: Amazon.com does have some Logitech webcams for sale in Frustration-Free Packaging, which means that the box is plain cardboard without “excess packaging materials such as hard plastic clamshell casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties.” And frustration-free packaging is made to be shipped as is without the need for an outer box.

But I wonder which is more eco-friendly: ordering products to be shipped individually from Amazon.com in sustainable packaging or buying overpackaged products that have been shipped in quantity to a local store? If you eliminate auto emissions (since I’d be riding my bike to the store), does the fuel savings outweigh the packaging waste? I don’t know.

And that’s why I try not to buy new things in the first place.

21 comments
Condo Blues
Condo Blues

Arya does not look pleased. I feel your pain. I had to order a card of 4 AAA rechargeable batteries because I couldn't find them for sale locally. Well, truthfully I didn't feel like driving to 3 other stores not on my errand route. I paid for it. I got those batteries in a box almost as long as my dog and with more plastic pillows in the box that product. :(

jenny
jenny

My husband and I are saving most of our cardboard and paper waste for a big composting project in the fall. You basically lay out newspapers and cardboard over your flower and garden beds, layered with compost and manure and all that good stuff. And then next spring you plant your stuff in a bed of gorgeous, rich soil. So I still think the packaging is way too much, but composting is a nice way to use it, rather than the recycling bin, which is in turn much better than the trash.

Aspen
Aspen

I've been thinking about getting one from http://www.unitedpepper.org They're an electronics company that seems quite devoted to producing fair trade and green electronics. They list the materials they use although I'm unsure how much, if any, plastic they use. Thought it'd be worth sharing. It's a cool idea for a company given huge environmental and social impact the production of electronics entails.

Remember that joke gift, where you put a tiny gift
Remember that joke gift, where you put a tiny gift

[...] Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish just bought a webcam. A 4.3 oz camera with 4.4 oz. packaging and a box more than 10 times the volume of the camera itself.  She is, understandably, aghast. [...]

Vanessa Battersby
Vanessa Battersby

Hi Beth, Not totally on topic here: but I wanted to thank you for inspiring me to act. I bought a couple of pairs of underwear online from a company here in Australia (bamboobody.com.au): they sell sustainable bamboo clothes. But I was horrified to find that the underwear arrived individually wrapped in plastic, so – I rang the company. First time ever. One of the staff rang me back today and explained that it's actually biodegradable cellophane, not plastic.... so I didn't really save the earth. But I've never contacted a company to complain about their packaging before. It's a start! Small steps

Rob
Rob

You know it's all good that we write letters when we are mad or feel that companies are not doing right. As long as we remember (and believe I fail at this a lot) to write when companies do the right thing. Case in point when I ordered a Nuetron re chargeable lawn mower the packaging was as minimal as possible, and certain things showed that someone was thinking at the company like instead of styrofoam using cardboard blocks to cushion sensitive parts. I was really pleased! Did I remember to write the company and tell them? No. I failed. oh well. I will try to do better next time (And yes I know it is not too late to write a note now)

arduous
arduous

"I understand that mail trucks are making their deliveries anyways, but it seems a bit chicken-and-egg. Because if fewer people were doing the shipping, surely that would cut down on emissions, based on weight of goods and possibly even the number of flights that need to made or the number of trucks on the road." Well sure, but if fewer people were buying stuff at the mall, then there would be fewer trucks on the road carrying stuff to the mall. Either way, it's the weight and size of the package that matters. I don't see the carbon advantage of a webcam from Radioshack just because it's shipped in bulk, since as so many people noted, the USPS mail trucks go to your door every day regardless. And if the Amazon package is smaller and lighter, it's actually a net positive to ship from Amazon. And on a more philosophical level, shouldn't we be supporting the companies that ARE changing their practices to be more environmentally friendly as opposed to those that continue to package their web cams in excessive packaging?

Twyla
Twyla

How weird is this. I see this email in my inbox, right next to one about frustration free packaging. Couldn't help but remark on the irony. I have often wondered about the footprint and which is better really of buying eco things and having them shipped to you vs buying mass produced things with a smidge of plastic. I wouldn't even know how to weigh the odds.

Sandra Lee
Sandra Lee

I really admire your willingness to take the extra step and write a letter to the company. I always wonder about buying from Amazon. By the time I make the two hour round-trip to the store, I wonder if it wouldn't save ecologically to buy from Amazon and have it delivered via USPS, since they drive out everyday anyway. In either case, the product is getting shipped via air either to the store or to the post office if I get it from Amazon. I wonder if anyone has done an analysis on this!

RSA Certificate
RSA Certificate

I doubt the fuel savings would outweigh the packaging waste. I mean the packages will still be shipped in the same way whether it's one package or 50.

Rebecca
Rebecca

I had a similar experience recently when buying a new USB hard drive. What really got me was that the box was sealed shut with little stickers, and shrink wrapped on top of that! What a total waste of plastic!

Amber
Amber

I look forward to hearing his response. And I also wonder about the relative carbon footprint of shipping vs. buying in the store. For example, if I buy several sustainably produced, handmade gifts off of Etsy, but they're each shipped 3000 miles to me in different boxes, how much better is that REALLY than just going to the local mall and buying them all at once? I understand that mail trucks are making their deliveries anyways, but it seems a bit chicken-and-egg. Because if fewer people were doing the shipping, surely that would cut down on emissions, based on weight of goods and possibly even the number of flights that need to made or the number of trucks on the road. You're right, it really is easier to just buy second-hand. From the local thrift store.

LInda Anderson
LInda Anderson

I like your letter. You could try mailing the packaging back to the company. I know you would have to pay postage but it would make a good statement. Several countries require the manufacturer to be accountable for the packaging and this company may do that in those countries. We in the US need to start a movement to get manufacturers to reduce packaging and to be responsible for all waste from the product.

Rob
Rob

You know, things being shipped UPS and more over USPS seems fine with me.... They are going by here anyway. I know seems real simple of me, and maybe I am, but thats how I see things

Erika
Erika

My understanding is that things you order with USPS shipping have an effective carbon footprint of zero. Because the shipping and delivery trucks make their rounds regardless of whether they're going to bring something specifically to you or not. I end up ordering a lot of stuff online because living in a rural area, it's a lot more efficient for me to drive to the post office (6 miles) than the nearest specialty stores (30-90 miles).

claire
claire

at least it's not a blister pack I suppose. as far as ordering online goes, I think that if you use the USPS and they're going to your house anyway, it's not too much of a difference. I can't give numbers because I'm guessing here. I like online buying because it gets the products people need directly to them, cutting out middle men who probably won't sell all of the products they order and will end up throwing many away (or liquidating so they end up somewhere else where no one will buy them). that said, I do believe in supporting local shops because it keeps the money within the community, assuming the person profiting from it will spend their money in the community. but buying directly from small companies online has a sort of efficiency because it reduces overproduction. if you're buying online from a reseller, the product is essentially shipped twice (or more times), which is not more efficient.

autumn
autumn

that is a great letter. i just posted negative feedback to an ebay seller who sent me 6 rubber toetaps rolled up in 2 feet of bubble wrap and all that inserted into a big plastic envelope. sheesh i'd even requested on the purchase to please avoid shipping in plastic. my new policy if i need to buy something new, is open it right after purchase and give all the packaging to customer service and ask them to give it back to the factory to reuse. well of course i am quite popular with that and i suspect the one time i tried it, target employee tossed it directly in the trash.

Corinne
Corinne

Great letter. There are times when I think that things are getting worse with excess packaging, not better. Sigh. Let's keep up the struggle! It is making a difference.

Jenn the Greenmom
Jenn the Greenmom

This makes me CRAZY! I have the same *headdesk* impulse whenever one of my kids has a birthday and their friends bring them these gifts wrapped in enormous and multilayered boxes with the plastic clamshells with little metal twisty-ties around every limb of the already plastic doll or toy...or the 8" around Lego-type box which is about 1/5 filled with actual lego parts (each small subcategory individually packaged in plastic baggies, of course)...it's insane. I love getting ebay packages and seeing what creative packing materials come in my boxes, almost always old newspaper or paper grocery bags, or mis-matched bubble wrap you can be pretty sure was in their closet somewhere (and which then goes into mine, until I can "regift" some other person with it...) Those are my favorite sellers--when I can just tell they aren't going out and buying packing materials...

Andrea
Andrea

My husband recently bought one of those blue tooth ear insert thingies (he works a lot on the phone) and I was apalled at the packaging to product ratio. YOu could probably have fit 50 or more blue tooths in the huge clear plastic tube like thing it came in.

carmen
carmen

I understand your frustrations...I too do not like buying new items because of all the packaging....I have been wanting to buy a food processor for quite a while and by pure luck found one at a massive yard sale...Paid $2.00 for it and the only packaging was the ziplock baggie to hold the blades...It works, I didn't have to buy new and deal with the packing materials and I helped keep something out of the land fill...

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  1. [...] Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish just bought a webcam. A 4.3 oz camera with 4.4 oz. packaging and a box more than 10 times the volume of the camera itself.  She is, understandably, aghast. [...]