Saturday, July 31, 2010

As Open Letter to Maxwell House Coffee

Dear Max:

I appreciate your efforts to provide the freshest possible coffee in the most number of flavors and strengths that you can.  Snobs may turn up their noses at you in favor of Sumatra beans they roast themselves, but I am not a snob and I take great pleasure in the two cups a day I drink of your coffee (or whatever brand is on sale).

I was especially delighted when, shopping at CVS this morning for hair dye and other accoutrements that are the bare minimum of catching a man, I discovered a two-for-the-price-of-one on you 11-ounce can.  I snatched them up, was bossed shamelessly around  by the new self-service check out CVS has installed (I only needed a human clerk to bail me out once), and came home to empty both cans into the big Chockful-o'-Nuts can that was running dangerously low.

Thankfully, that CoN can was so big that, for once, I could knock out all the coffee that usually get sticks under the protruding rim of the opening that, by the end of the year, wastes at least one cup of joe and earns Kraft some million extra dollars.

[Mental note: Keep the CoN can when I run out of coffee the next time.]

Upon finishing this task, however, I was faced with an unsolvable dilemma.

I had already placed the tin "vacuum tops" and the plastic lids in the recycling bag for metal, glass and plastic, but I was stuck with two containers, the sides and bottom of which are made of cardboard.  However, your heavy waxed cardboard is reinforced by a steel band at the top (with the wasteful lip) and the bottom.

Do these containers belong in the metal/plastic/glass recycling or in the paper recycling?  If I go by mass, I believe the heavier steel would dictate that the containers follow their lids, but if I approach the problem by area, then clearly they belong with the toilet paper rolls and Steuben Glass catalogues -- or the oatmeal container I had also just emptied into its bigger parent box.

Having, by serendipity, stored both coffee and oats in one five-minute period, I am led to wonder if you have taken a look at Pepsi's traditional packaging of Quaker Oats?  They, too, come in a cylindrical cardboard box, although less enforced against the flavor-sucking humidity of CVS's air conditioned shelves.  However, instead of having steel reinforcing rims that rob the consumer of one bowl of porridge a year, Quaker and other generic store brands trust that their oats will not fly apart in the hands of the consumer or stick together in the way they might if we, the consumers, lived in, say, Saigon.

As Kermit-the-Frog said so eloquently, "It ain't easy being green," but, by following the Pepsi Company's lead, it could be less time-consuming.  The lid and the sealed top go into the glass/plastic/metal recycling and the container into the paper recycling.  No thought is required.

I know that asking you to change your packaging concept is probably futile, but could you at least provide wording on your containers regarding which recycling bin they belong in?  I've got the wasted grounds covered but have now lost twenty minutes of valuable farming time (the cherries are ripe on Farm Town!) to pondering this question.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Kuffel


Unknown said...

Dear Maxwell House,

Having just read Ms. Kuffel's thoughts to you I feel I must add my own. One doesn't realize just how awful one's cup of coffee is until one has a marvelous one and then taste one's own again. So in addition to altering your packaging for handy recycling purposes could you also consider filling them with Folger's?

Thank you very much,

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find that vintage advertisement offensive?! OMG! To think that ads used to be so--- awful! A boycott of Chase and Sanborn would be in order... if I was a coffee drinker... and it was 1960, or whenever that ad dates from...

I agree that many companies need to re-think their packaging strategies, though. So much waste!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for formulating the letter I had planned to write to Trader Joe's. They package their coffee the same way.

Janissia Orgill said...

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