• Grumpy Guest

Plastic waste (by Razoupaf)

The solo community has a healthy proportion of grumpy gamers, and we are happy to let them voice their concerns on our site. Razoupaf is our first guest. (He can also be found at his website, if you can read French: Le Comboteur Fou.)

While doing the groceries the other day, I noticed that the « pre-cut » aisle for vegetables and fruits had grown in size. That aisle is an aberration. People who buy this kind of product are basically paying more for something natural that has been pre-cut and packaged in a plastic box because they are too lazy to peel and cut the vegetable or fruit by themselves.

This made me reflect on the current situation of boardgames, which suffer heavily from what we call in French «suremballage», or overpack/overwrap. One of the guilty parties is Fantasy Flight Games and their LCGs, which are always a) in a hard plastic disposable and non-repurposable shell and b) shrinkwrapped in a non-repurposable plastic sheet. Neither of these being useful. These used to come in beautifully illustrated cardboard packages, back in the day, and still are in Russia apparently. What went wrong?

They’re not the only culprits either. As a compulsive sleever, I can only salute Mayday for packaging their sleeves in repurposable ziplock bags. I have a huge amount of these and always find them a use, here turning them in a makeshift carrying solution for Sprawlopolis, there in a way to preset each color’s tokens in Edge of Darkness, there to sort tokens by type in Aeon’s End… The possibilities are endless. But absolutely ALL their competitors use not only one, but TWO disposable and non-repurposable thick plastic bags to package their sleeves. So much waste.

I’m not happy with Indie Board & Cards who wrapped individual dividers for Aeon’s End : New Age in their own little non-repurposable baggies. One per divider. And those aren’t the reuseable type. And did they have to print a cardboard sheet the size of Sands of Dunestar box for a meager 12 tokens, leaving us with 90% of the sheet going to waste? That sheet was the only reason the box was so big too! And why have a plastic insert made for something that will never, ever be used again? And is likely to end up in the trash as soon as it’s been opened?

One of my solutions to box wrapping is to cut the bottom of the wrap out with an exacto knife, exactly where the lid closes in on the bottom of the box, and to keep the remainder of the wrap on the lid, so as to both reduce waste and preserve the lid longer through sliding the box off the shelf or carrying it in a bag. I’ll use tape to reinforce it if it shows signs of going off.

This isn’t just limited to wrapping, though. Ordering individual parcels will generate more waste through cardboard boxes and plastic «cushions» to make them safe during travel: Meeple Logistics won’t stop packaging games in two sheets of plastic bubble wrap in a humongous cardboard box. It’s getting so ridiculous that you get a cardboard box the size of a Gloomhaven box for a game the size of The Mind! I’ve seen it happen. To their credit, some companies used repurposed slashed cardboard as shock absorbers, while Kingdom Death uses extra-thin folded paper sheets. But you’re still gonna throw away your sprue and that’s a lot of hard plastic.

It’s high time we changed our ways. Cottage Garden, Indian Summer and Spring Meadow were printed in Germany. Local game stores ordering bulk orders minimize waste and fuel consumption. Hasbro should do away with shrinkwrapping in 2-3 years. We’re talking about those who print Magic: the Gathering, one of the games that generate the most waste in terms of shrinkwraps, cardboard boxes, tinfoil wraps, and useless advertising cards and unplayable commons.

And you know what ? People already complain about the lack of shrinkwrap this foretells…

What a world we live in.

We’re doomed.