Responding to widespread environmental concern, the recording industry said yesterday that it would replace the long cardboard or plastic display boxes in which it sells compact disks with packaging no bigger than the small plastic container that holds the disk.
Jay Berman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the group's members -- companies that produce and distribute more than 95 percent of the recorded music sold in the United States -- had agreed that as of April 1993, no new releases would be packaged in the 6-by-12-inch boxes, which buyers throw away. They have adopted a size that measures 5 by 5.5 inches.
Other details will be left to individual record companies but the final products are to have little if any disposable packaging. The biggest members of the group are Bertelsmann, EMI, MCA, Polygram, Sony and Warner.
The National Association of Recording Merchandisers, the trade association representing retailers and wholesalers, said that while it supports environmentally sound packaging, the new size would pose serious problems for retailers because the compact disks could be more easily shoplifted, were harder to display in an eye-catching fashion and would require costly changes in display bins.
Packaging has been one of the hottest issues involving CDs, about 300 million of which are sold annually in the United States alone.
The long box was designed to be about twice as long as the plastic container holding the compact disk, known as a jewel box, so it would be harder for a shoplifter to steal and could be stacked in racks once used for long-playing record albums.
But long boxes account for millions of pounds of waste each year and the mounting trash piles prompted an outcry. The Sierra Club says that two of every five pounds of the nation's garbage consists of cardboard and other paper products.
Among the most celebrated critics of the boxes have been recording artists themselves, including Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and R.E.M.
Daniel J. Weiss, a Sierra Club executive attending the news conference where the announcement was much made, said, "Eliminateing the long box is music to our ears."