I nurtured my last sip of beer at Ashley’s and stood to leave. It was one of those randomly warm days that got mixed in with the myriad of cold ones. State Street was bustling with people wearing dusty, rediscovered summer attire, pulled from the shadow-veiled corners of their closets. I stood waiting for the crosswalk to change and overheard a friendly debate between two bums: “If you had to choose – which is more important, the cheese or the wrapper of a Kraft American Single?”

Growing up in a typical American household, I’m very familiar with the Kraft American Single and its wrapper. The iconic small flap at the top that is to be peeled away first, then the rest of the wrapper that hugs the greater part of the cheese. It’s the perfect element for a grilled cheese sandwich, to melt over eggs or simply eat plain. As I pretended to be busy reading old text messages on my phone, I eavesdropped on their conversation, straining to hear both arguments past the noise in the street. The first bum stood tall and had a Christ-like appearance, and argued that the wrapper is the more important part of the single — it’s the unsung hero that keeps the cheese fresh. The second bum was shorter in stature, but the tone of his voice was strong and authoritative, retorting that the cheese is the substance, the part you’re paying for and eating, and thus obviously more important.

As I walked away, I contemplated both arguments. I came to the conclusion that the cheese is obviously the more important part; it’s the sustenance and the product, so it definitely reigns supreme. But the wrapper intrigued me. I thought long and hard about the wrapper as I walked. Why is it there? How many must Kraft produce a year? That’s a lot of plastic. I had an overwhelming feeling that the wrapper is not “underappreciated” like the Jesus-bum claimed — it’s simply unnecessary.

That’s a lot of plastic for one slice of cheese. This wastefulness aroused my curiosity and so I braved the UGLi to do some research. Kraft sells $400 million of American Singles alone each year. A 16-pack of the individually packaged cheese is about $3.50. That means Kraft sells about 115 million packs of singles a year. With 16 slices in each pack, that’s about 1.8 billion slices of cheese — each one hugged tightly by a piece of plastic. I contacted Kraft to find out more about their packaging of the single, but their transparency did not mimic their wrapper. I was told by Kim McMiller, associate director of consumer relations, that “the individual packaging is provided by a supplier who wishes to be kept anonymous, therefore, we are not able to provide you with any information.” The point is that there is a lot of unnecessary waste going on here that should be remedied, and it seems to me that Kraft knows it, based on their unwillingness to provide any numbers or information about their product.

Get rid of the damn wrapper. Stack the slices on top of each other and put them in a resealable container — the cheese will stay fresh and maybe the container can be reused as recyclable Tupperware. The point is we don’t think of something so small as waste. We all mindlessly throw away wrapper after wrapper, not thinking about how each one contributes to the billions we throw away every year. This doesn’t stop with cheese. We practice wasteful methods everywhere without a thought. We allow powerful corporations like Kraft do what they want because we are complacent, acting as if we see no problem with the way things are run. But I see a problem — and this may be only one instance of waste among the many out there, but it is an instance of waste, and it should be fixed. If this fake cheese has won you over like it has me, let’s not allow this love affair to blind us on issue of wastefulness. We have given them power by standing by and doing nothing, continuing to mindlessly buy their product. I’m going to send an e-mail to company to display my disgust and I’m going to stop eating Kraft singles until they change. Maybe if everyone else does the same, Kraft will hear.

Blake can be reached at blakeobi@umich.edu.

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