Shrinking the CD box -- The death of longbox is forthcoming

In the game of the CD packaging, the score is now: environmentalists 1, record retailers 0. After years of intensifying pressure from ecological activists, artists, and consumers, the recording industry has vowed to scrap the larger packages in which most compact discs are sold. By April 1993, CDs will no longer come wrapped in the oversize cardboard ”longboxes” most people promptly throw away. No single design has been chosen to replace the longbox, but the new packages cannot be larger than a jewel box, a hard plastic container that comes inside longboxes now.

”This is a real moral victory,” says Rob Simonds, chief financial officer by the Rykodisc label and founder of Ban the Box, a group of recording artists and executives who lobbied against the longbox. Eliminating oversize packaging will save nearly 12,000 tons of waste per year.

So far, retailers are less than thrilled with the move. Selling the CD in packages about half the size of the longbox will force them to change their display bins, a large and unwanted expense. They also fear that the smaller package will increase theft, requiring further outlays on security.

Pam Horovitz, executive vice president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, a group of record retailers, says there is a ”lot of frustration and anger in the retail community. We were totally cut out of the decision making. We were hoping for something environmentally and retailer friendly.”

One way retailers might be mollified is through financial assistance from labels when the new packaging is introduced next year. Dropping the longbox could save major labels as much as 50 cents per CD at wholesale, and Horovitz suggests those savings could be passed along the retailers. Eventually, those economies might even benefit consumers; given the usual retail markup, that could save them as much as $1 per compact disc.