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The Sun Chips bag and the future of the world

Does it matter that people didn't like the compostable bag? And was it really that environmentally friendly? Many voices weigh in.

By Teresa Mears Oct 11, 2010 4:24PM

We apologize that we're a little late getting to last week's top news development, which was that Frito-Lay is no longer selling most Sun Chips in compostable bags because customers found the bags too noisy.

And maybe the bags weren't that environmentally friendly after all.

 

What does this mean for the future of the planet?

 

In a post at Mother Jones titled "Why we're doomed," Kate Sheppard lamented that Americans don't care enough about the environment to put up with a little bag crinkling. Post continues after video.

Sheppard wrote:

I can't think of a more absurd example of how resistant to change Americans really are. ... In the grand scheme of things, this is the absolute, bare-minimum level of sacrifice Americans are asked to make. ... But apparently that's still too much. Even worse is the fact that Americans can't muster the support to pass a climate bill, but a bunch of angry couch potatoes can successfully mobilize to force Frito-Lay to drop their innovative packaging.

And, at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal even drew from an 1843 story by Atlanticco-founder John Greenleaf Whittier for Madrigal's analysis of the demise of the compostable bag. In "Sun Chips and supercapitalism," Madrigal also wrote:

The great machinery induced by billion-dollar markets for everything (anything) can be reconfigured for any purpose, even something as mind-numbing as flexible, lightweight chip containers.
... You think, with the soaring, half-serious tone that we reserve for visions of collapse: This is what happens to a country that no longer dreams, that has lost its sense of national purpose or greatness. You think: Maybe we do need a space program, so that we start looking up again.

If you want to know what the august commentator Stephen Colbert had to say, The Huffington Post has a video.

 

Wading through the reams of blog posts on this development, we also discovered, in Sheppard's follow-up post at Mother Jones, that the bag may not have been quite as environmentally friendly as touted, though that could be (and has been) debated.

The dissatisfaction with the bag was exposed by The Wall Street Journal in a front-page expose that revealed a steady decline in Sun Chip sales since the new bags were introduced. A Facebook group called "Sorry, I can't hear you over this Sun Chips bag" attracted tens of thousands of fans. As Kathy Frederick, a 44-year-old computer consultant in Pennsylvania, told the WSJ:

The thing is, you feel guilty about complaining since they are doing a good thing for the environment. But you want to snack quietly and you don't want everyone in the house to know you are eating chips.

We had no idea people take their chip bags so seriously or that there is so much stealth chip consumption.

 

The bag even inspired several consumer experiments:

Are you willing to experience a little noise for the chance to help the environment, if these bags really do help? If so, you can still buy the original flavor of Sun Chips in the compostable bags. If you can't put up with a noisy bag, you'll have to buy the other flavors, which will be sold in traditional chip packaging.

 

It's time to put your money where your mouth is.

 

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