In Praise of Cardboard

There’s an irony to it.  Using single-use plastic bags to ship books.  Now I know better than to stereotype book lovers, but I suspect it’s safe to say that those of us who order books like paper.  And we are probably well aware that paper recycles more easily than single-use plastics with heavy, preternaturally sticky labels attached to them.  You see, much of the clutter about our house is our reluctance to just throw away things that can be recycled or reused.  There are rules for prep, however.  Labels are supposed to be removed from plastics and judging from my experience, I need to be doing more pushups to do so.  Some are stuck on so well that it stretches and distorts the plastic like the face of a movie monster, still without coming off.  What’s wrong with a box?

Books arriving, snug in a box

Apart from being easily recycled, boxes prevent books from getting banged up in transit.  I often receive books so tightly cased in plastic that removing them must be like pulling off snug leggings when it’s really humid out.  There’s an almost obscene quality to peeling off something that tight.  And getting the label off?  Forget it.  Boxes are better.  We tend to reuse many of them—they’re good for sending fragile gifts to others.  Or storing other single-use plastic pieces for use in art projects.  (Lids often can’t be recycled.)  As long as the paper’s responsibly sourced, cardboard has environmental benefits.  Besides, I suspect books prefer the feel of paper on their skins.

I’m not a very good consumer, but I do have a soft spot for books.  Even as reasonable grocery chains are phasing out single-use plastics, many book sellers are picking up the slack, it seems.  I know we have developed civilization to such a point that our lifestyle is impossible without plastic.  Indeed, the very keys on which I tap out these thoughts are made of plastic (at least Macs use metal casings for their laptops, or some of them, anyway.)  I have this nightmare that I’ll get something in the mail, or worse, a visitor at the door, telling me that they’ve pieced together, from all the fragments of labels still on plastic bags, that I’m the one who’s been turning them in for recycling without properly removing the sticky paper.  I know that I won’t have any viable defense—I don’t have the time, resources, or tensile strength to do the job properly—and all I’ll be able to say is, “I prefer boxes.”

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