Overpackaged gifts in spotlight in China

Indo Asian News Service

Beijing, Feb 8 (IANS) Overpackaging still takes place in China despite the ongoing campaign to promote frugality in the country, said Xinhua news agency after an expensive tea weighing barely 100 grams weighed 2.5 kg due to its packaging.

A survey in a gift shop conducted this week by the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, found that the packaging of the luxury tea, priced at about 10,000 yuan ($1,590), weighed 2.5 kg. However, the tea weighed only about 100 grams.

Although the problem has long been criticized, it has provoked more criticism this year due to a campaign to advocate a frugal lifestyle and avoid extravagance and waste in the country.

National broadcaster China Central Television also joined in the movement, calling on the public not to buy heavily-wrapped goods.

It is estimated that overpackaging costs the country about 400 billion yuan every year. In 2010, a national standard to regulate the excessive packaging in the food and cosmetics sectors was launched but the problem in the gift market is still rampant.

"I bought a set of clothes for my children. It was put in a huge box and dozens of pins were used to fix the clothes in the case. Overpackaging is not only wasteful but also dangerous," Internet user "Mufuguiziluo" said in a post on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service.

Dong Jinshi, vice president of the International Foodpackaging Association, said unnecessary packaging was also environmentally hazardous as it wastes resources and also causes problems in recycling.

He said flashy packages are often made from inferior materials that are very hard to decompose in the natural environment.

Products wrapped in fancy packages are often more attractive, thus more lucrative in the market, said Tan Kejian, a sociologist from the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences.

People are also more inclined to buy such goods for gifts, as they believe decent packaging will make the products more presentable, Tan said.

"If the gift is very exquisite or holds high value, then both the sender and receiver feel honoured," Dong said.

The problem was worsened by consumption involving the arbitrary use of public money, said Xinhua.

The People's Daily survey quoted a shop assistant at an alcohol section of a different store. The assistant said the flashier the package, the better the alcohol sells, adding that a government department bought 20 bottles as presents.