CD longboxes retired
Trees rejoice! CD longbox a thing of the past By MATTY KARAS PRESS CORRESPONDENT The CD longbox that 12-inch-long, environmentally incorrect cardboard box in which most compact discs have been packaged for the past decade died yesterday. This is good news for trees. The average consumer, say retailers, may not even notice. After years of discussion, the six major distributors of CDs Warner Bros., Sony, Polygram, MCA, EMI and Bertelsmann Music Group stopped shipping CDs in packages more than twice as large as the CD itself. CDs are 5 inches in diameter and normally stored in 5- by S'z-inch plastic boxes known as jewel boxes. But since the birth of the digital music medium in the early 1980s, the major record companies have shipped the CDs and jewel boxes inside 6- by 12-inch cardboard boxes to make them easier for stores to display. The so-called longboxes fit two across inside the 12-inch-wide bins the stores used to use for vinyl records. But the longboxes outraged environmentalists, who saw them as wasteful packaging. "It was a good transition tool that unfortunately stayed around just a little too long," said Tim Sites, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the six major record tympanies. Pressured for years by environmental lobbyists, including a record industry group that calls itself Ban the Box, the record companies agreed a year ago to find an alternative. They gave themselves until this week to put that alternative into regular action. From now on, CDs will be shipped in a variety of formats, most of which will conform to a new 5- by 52-inch packaging standard, according to Sites. Among the formats will be the jewel box itself, which will be shrink-wrapped and shipped with no additional packaging as some independent record companies have done for years anyway. Other CDs will be shipped in similar-size paperboard packages that can be unfolded at home by the con sumer, allowing extra space for artwork. Most local record stores contacted said they will snap the CDs into 6- by 12-inch plastic display frames, as they do for imports and other CDs already shipped in simple jewel boxes. But it will take as long as a year for longboxes to disappear from record stores, since a compact disc shipped Wednesday, when longboxes were still in use, could conceivably sit on a shelf for that long, waiting to be bought, retailers said. Record companies have said retailer worries were a chief reason for the slow death of the longbox. Store owners complained they would have to reconfigure their shelves to accommodate the smaller packages and said they would be easier to steal. The changeover will cost record retailers and wholesalers nationwide about $200 million, said Jim Donio, spokesman for the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, an Evesham Township-based trade group. The major record companies have offset much of that cost by offering the stores rebates on record orders, said Donio and Sites. And they plan to soon include anti-theft magnetic strips on CD packages, Sites said. Despite the trade group's concerns, local record-store managers said they foresee no transitional troubles. "We have a lot of product that has been coming without a longbox for some time, particularly classical and jazz," said Jan-Mikael Erakere, a manager at the Record World store in Toms River. And when there is a longbox, he said, "a lot of customers ask us to remove the package and recycle it." The Ban the Box group has estimated record companies could cut up to $1 off the manufacturing and packaging process by eliminating the long-box, but no one is predicting consumers will see any savings. "That's up to the industry, right?," said Jim Edenbaum, manager of Vintage Vinyl in Ocean Township. "Knowing the industry, I don't think it'll be lowering the price on anything."