Issue 30

The Dumpster: It’s a Wrap

The Dumpster: It’s a Wrap

I bought a 16MB Flash card for my camera. The card itself is about the size of a Cheez-It. It was packaged in a little plastic box, which was wrapped in a four-inch plastic bubble, sealed in a plastic hanger display sixteen inches tall. The identical sized 8MB card was in a package only twelve inches tall, which is supposed to make sense. After I unwrapped the card I had to take out the garbage.

Last time I went to the grocery store I found tomatoes individually encased in plastic balls. It doesn’t keep them fresher; they taste exactly like the regular wooden store tomatoes. Is it more sanitary? God knows the customers at my local store are a grimy bunch, but I’m a nose-picker myself, and the solution for all of us is to wash our produce (the food, not the nose-pickings) before we eat it.

We love packaging. The produce section has spools of plastic bags that dispense like toilet paper, even though avocados, for example, come with a perfectly good natural wrapper, hard and brown and wrinkly. When my four loose, toddling avocados rolled up the conveyor belt to the checkout clerk, she recoiled as if I had offered her a quarter on my tongue. The sack boy interrupted the stand-off by asking, “Do you want your bag of charcoal in a bag?”

Potato chip vendors now use NASA technology to create chip bags that are ultra-light, impervious to sunlight and impossible to open. Where once I could tear open the bag by pulling at the seam, I now struggle until my eyes bug out and the rest of the bag explodes, leaving me holding what’s left of the top. Why can’t they make chip bags that split open with the slightest pressure, like they do garbage bags?

In the rush to make everything but food out of corn, engineers at Frito-Lay developed a bio-degradable bag in which they dumped their happier, healthier Sun Chips. Unlike the revolutionary taco salad bowls of the 1970s, you can’t eat this container. In fact, if you eat the chips and throw the bag on the ground (some say you should do the opposite), the bag will still be there in the morning. And next week. And next year. But in a generation it will be gone, unlike a regular plastic bag that will look as good as new. Indeed, a church in the city of Turin, Italy, displays a potato chip bag they claim was discarded by Jesus.

Just months after the debut of healthy food in a healthy bag, Sun Chips announced they were removing the Earth-friendly bags from the shelves. Customers had stopped buying the chips because the bag was too crinkly. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but I could believe my ears. I picked up a bag at the store and it sounded like firecrackers. The entire aisle was staring at me. I put the bag back. We all want to recycle and have a sustainable planet, as long as we don’t have to tolerate anything crinkly. The planet is doomed, but at least it will be quiet.

Take note, ye little old ladies in the theater. No, opening candy wrappers with excruciating slowness isn’t quieter. Do you bring them so you don’t cough? Surely a quick hack is less agonizing than a five minute wrap solo. If I can remember to silence my phone before the curtain goes up, you can remember to remove the celloprofane wrappers of your butterscotchies in the lobby.

Or are you doing it on purpose? In theater’s time-honored tradition of throwing produce at performers, perhaps those crackly little candy wrappers are an act of disapproval. A quick interview turned up at least one patron—I won’t say who, but her initials are W.I.F.E.—who unwraps peppermints in the front row to unnerve actors she dislikes. “To be, or…” [crinkle crinkle] “…not…” [crinkle crinkle] “to not…um…line, please?”

Yesterday I bought a wastepaper basket for my office. When I got it home I took the wastebasket out of the shopping bag, then put the shopping bag in the wastebasket.

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell is a songwriter and humor essayist. His “Dumpster” column closes every issue of Food & Spirits magazine. He has authored two books, including Are You Going To Eat That? (2009), and Of Mice and Me (2017). He also has four albums of original songs. The latest, My Turn Now, was released in 2015. Learn more at

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