FOR years, environmentally conscious musicians have been...


April 12, 1993

FOR years, environmentally conscious musicians have been pressing record manufacturers to replace the 12-inch-long cardboard or plastic boxes compact discs are sold in, arguing that the estimated 20 million tons of non-biodegradable trash produced annually by CD packaging contributes unnecessarily to pollution.

Last year the industry agreed to phase out the CD long box, and this month the first boxless CDs began arriving on dealers' shelves. But the change is proving to be a big headache for area retailers.

About half the volume of the old long box is wasted space, since the CDs' 5 1/2 inch plastic "jewel boxes" are perfectly adequate to protect the discs from damage. But the big box had marketing advantages. For one, since they were the same height but just half the width of the old long-playing record jacket, dealers could stock twice as many discs on the same shelves with minimal modifications.

The bigger box also provided more space for art work and program information to catch the buyer's eye. Perhaps most important, the big boxes were bulky enough to discourage shoplifters. The slender jewel box, by contrast, slips easily into a pocket or purse.

A few stores, such as An Die Musik in Towson, already had a policy of taking CDs sent from the factory out of their long boxes and displaying them on shelves in the plain plastic cases. But the changeover last week found most retailers with much of their inventory still in long boxes as new shipments arrived packaged in the bare jewel box. At local Recordmasters stores, for &L example, sales staff were frantically unwrapping thousands of long-box packages and rearranging shelf space in order to accommodate the smaller units.

Consumers, too, may find the next few weeks somewhat disorienting as they browse through stores. While retailers are changing over, there's apt to be some confusion regarding which titles are located where. Don't be surprised if the store computer says a particular album is in stock but the salesperson can't find it. Be patient. Things should sort themselves out shortly.

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