How to Open Plastic Packaging (Without Hurting Yourself)

Have you suffered from “wrap rage,” the term coined to describe consumers’ frustration while opening hard clamshell plastic packaging that encloses so many things?

Way back in 2008, CNET described efforts to replace clamshell packaging with something easier to open and better for the environment. Online retail giant Amazon introduced “frustration-free” packaging that year.

But clamshell packaging is still around. The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes 2,800 trips to the emergency room to plastic packaging between 2003 and 2012. Most injuries involved a knife.

What can you do? In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has some tips for opening those packages without cutting hands or lopping off fingertips. Check it out, then read on for more details.

Smarter packing

First off, you may be able to avoid the frustration altogether. More companies have committed to making their packaging easier to open while still strong enough for transport and to deter theft. Clamshell is increasingly being replaced by cardboard coated with clear laminate and a plastic bubble, called a blister pack, over the product, The New York Times reported a couple of years ago.

The switch to less plastic seems driven more by the cost of oil, which is used to make plastic, than by efforts to placate consumers or the folks at Consumer Reports, who used to announce the Oyster Award for hardest-to-open packaging.

Unwrapping tips

Of course, you probably can’t avoid difficult packaging all the time. At some point you’re going to need some new tech or a new toy for your kids.

Here’s what to do:

Check for pull tabs. Some companies include easy pull tabs to remove plastic packaging. If the tabs snap off or your package is tab-free, grab a rotary can opener and a small kitchen knife. Then:

  1. Place the package on its side with the edge facing up.
  2. Insert the bottom edge of the package inside the can opener like you’d normally do to open a can.
  3. Turn the can opener until you reach the other end of the package.
  4. Insert the kitchen knife inside the now open part of the clamshell with the blade facing away from you. Slowly run the knife along the remaining three edges.

You have an open package in just a few minutes with the contents and the instructions intact.

Safety

Consumer Reports has some additional tips on how to avoid injuring yourself:

  • If you must use a knife or another type of sharp object, cut away from your body.
  • If you must use scissors, use ones with blunt tips.
  • Wear protective gloves.
  • Avoid opening tough-to-open packages in a crowded area.
  • Don’t hold the product between your legs to keep it stable.

Special tools

If the idea of opening packaging yourself still seems daunting or risky, a few products on the market are designed to make the task easier. For example, the Zip-it opener promises to slide along the package and looks similar to a can opener, but works with the press of a button. And the Open It! tool looks like miniature garden shears.

As Stacy mentioned in the video above, tin snips are cheap and since they’re designed to cut metal, effortlessly cut through plastic.

Avoid holiday meltdown

Finally, if you’ve ever found yourself spending Christmas morning with a crying child who just can’t wait for you to break open that clamshell package and untwist those 14 twist ties, consider this alternative: Open the package before Christmas, save any package materials in case you have to return it later, put the toy in a box, and then wrap it. Your kid won’t care if the item isn’t in its original packaging. She just wants access to it as quickly as possible.

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