As a company we help businesses to be legally compliant with packaging regulations and as I like a clever bit of packaging design, in some cases more than the contents, I had a look at research into Easter eggs packaging. Selflessly I will analyse what is out there in the way of chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies, chickens and…carrots!
I do draw the line at Creme Eggs…especially now they are not even made with a Dairy Milk shell, what have the Americans done? Maybe there is wisdom in decreasing the number sold in the box – no-one will want to eat six of them anymore. I have now just had a panic about the Caramel Egg…please leave them alone…
Traditionally more packaging than egg (Creme Egg excluded), Easter egg producers have been told over the last few years to make changes and they are…slowly.
WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has reported that Easter eggs generate an estimated 3,000 tonnes waste each year in the UK.
In 2006 WRAP set up the Seasonal Confectionary Working Group (SCWG) aimed at reducing packaging. The SCWG set out to identify and act on opportunities for their industry to optimise packaging, establish voluntary industry standards about “size on-shelf‟ and to promote a packaging reduction.
As well as light weight packaging, the sector also investigated increasing the use of recycled content and designing for recyclability. Some developed on-pack, child-friendly advice on how to recycle the packaging and made use of On-Pack Recycling Labels.
According to WRAP in 2009:
Cadbury UK delivered a 25% reduction in packaging across medium shell eggs resulting in 220 tonnes less plastic, 250 tonnes less carton cardboard and an additional 90 tonnes less transit/display packaging. The company also made savings on its large shell egg range with a 30% cut in packaging, saving 108 tonnes of plastic, 65 tonnes of carton cardboard and 44 tonnes of corrugated cardboard.
Mars Chocolate UK achieved a 42% reduction in carton cardboard weight of its medium-sized eggs, saving 200 tonnes of carton cardboard p.a. and reduced the amount of plastic used by 35%. The remaining packaging now uses 100% recycled carton cardboard board and carries advice to consumers on how and where to dispose of the packaging.
Nestlé UK removed all plastic packaging from their eggs, making them easier for consumers to recycle. The company cut the weight of packaging across its entire range by 30%, saving 784 tonnes. All small and medium eggs, which are 80% of their entire range, come in smaller cartons, leading to transport efficiencies and their packaging carries advice to help consumers to recycle more.
The Guardian reported that Nestlé in 2012 became the first major confectioner to announce its entire Easter egg packaging would be 100% recyclable and have no plastic egg packaging in its Easter egg range and by the 2014 Easter egg range had removed a further 175 tonnes of packaging with no reduction in the size of its eggs.
In April 2014 Sainsbury’s was the first UK retailer to offer customers a dedicated recycling facility in store for all their Easter egg packaging, this covered plastic, film, card, foil and ribbon.
This all sounds very encouraging but, then there is the ‘but’…, a study carried out in 2012 by Jo Swinson, MP still showed that on average, only 38% of what is in an Easter egg box is an egg, which is the same as in 2011. The study also criticised some manufacturers for failing to ensure their packages are made from widely recyclable materials, which means that much of the packaging still ends up in landfill sites.
The study named and shamed Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference for their vague/incorrect recycling information implying that the plastic shell was recyclable, resulting in tonnes of material incorrectly going into recycle bins – probably their own dedicated ones!
Without doubt there has been some progress and Nestlé UK have shown that they can do it, so come on the rest of you…
From my own very limited research Marks and Spencer’s are my biggest disappointment not much recyclable card in use and awful lot of plastic even on the chocolate ‘bunnys’ – Cadbury, Lidl, Aldi and Lindt have all managed to wrap them in just foil. A look at the recycling information was also rather disappointing – “Check your local recycling” (for my very small sample group) reads “not recyclable” and goes straight in the bin; and “Board, paper not currently recycled” – why not if all of Nestle’s are?
I will continue my research…then start the taste tests…
Packaging is a big issue not just for the confectionary sector at Easter or Christmas but for all companies year round. If your company handles packaging you may be an ‘Obligated Packaging Producer’ and as such must register to meet waste packaging recycling and recovery responsibilities and submit packaging data returns or face hefty fines.
If you are unsure or need help with the complexities of the packaging regulations, or require an expert opinion on your obligation, then please do have a look at our website, and get in touch. We offer a fully comprehensive packaging data service and would be delighted to help.
Blog post by Jane Yardley