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31 March 2012 | Naouel Zenaidi
An MP has accused confectionery companies of “complacency” over progress in reducing plastic packaging and waste.
In Easter egg packaging: Annual progress report 2012, released this week, Liberal Democrat representative Jo Swinson said the use of plastic in Easter egg packaging is a continuing cause for concern and the ability of local authorities to recycle it remains inconsistent.
She said: “Since launching this [annual] report in 2007 the main chocolate companies have acted to reduce their packaging and improve recyclability. However there are still a number of companies who rely too much on plastic and are sitting on their laurels.”
The report, which looked at Easter egg packaging across 11 brands, found that Thorntons, Baileys, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer continue to rely heavily on plastic packaging for their luxury eggs. Thorntons responded by saying it had reduced the environmental impact of its Easter products thanks to a 9.69-tonne fall in packaging. Lir Chocolates, who produce Baileys Easter eggs, said it had reduced its use of plastic to a single piece, thus cutting the amount of packaging for this product by 20 per cent. Sainsbury’s said it was committed to reducing its own packaging by half by 2020 compared to 2005, as outlined in its sustainability plan. And Marks & Spencer said it would be using 6 per cent less packaging than the previous year for its 2012 range.
The report said Mars and Cadbury had reduced packaging and increased recyclability, while Nestlé was identified as an exception as it became the first major confectioner to make all its Easter egg packaging 100 per cent widely recyclable. This means that 65 per cent or more of local authorities have collection facilities for that packaging type in their area.
Nestlé last week announced that the final three products in its Easter range to still use plastic – eggs including a branded mug – were now recyclable after rigid plastic was replaced with cardboard. A company spokesperson described the process as a challenge. “For quite a few years we’ve struggled to find a solution that would protect the mugs and it was our packaging technologists in Halifax, working closely with our suppliers, who finally managed to find a solution.”
The report also highlighted that misleading information about recycling was confusing to consumers. This leaves some trying to recycle packaging unsuited to it, while some suitable material ends up going landfill. Swinson said: “A few manufacturers are hiding behind green credentials with packaging that isn't easily recyclable by the majority of consumers.”
The report includes more detailed replies from manufacturers cited in the research and highlights their respective efforts in reducing packaging.