Easter egg makers fail to cut packaging

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The Independent Online

There has been almost no change in the amount of packaging on Easter eggs despite manufacturers' pledges to reduce the amount of card, plastic and foil they use, a survey has revealed.

Some of the eggs on offer are so over-packaged that the chocolate makes up less than 10 per cent of the volume of their wrapping, with names such as Nestlé, Cadbury and Green & Black's among the chief offenders.

The findings, which came despite last year's Courtauld Commitment in which almost all UK brands pledged a 5 per cent reduction in the amount of packaging that reached people's homes by 2010, sparked outrage from campaigners.

"Despite packaging being much more in the spotlight, Easter egg manufacturers are not taking the steps needed," said the Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who conducted the research by comparing this year's packaging with that of 2007. "Producers have talked in earnest terms about the need to cut packaging, but have so far failed to translate words into action. There have been very few discernible steps taken to reduce the size of Easter egg boxes and cut down on the different materials used."

Nestlé, signatories to the 2007 agreement, increased its packaging this year, with one egg taking up just 9 per cent of the packaging volume. Most brands, such as Cadbury, Green & Black's and Thorntons, have made no changes to their excessive wrapping, despite a vocal commitment to waste reduction. Ms Swinson said: "One year on from my original study into excess packaging on Easter eggs, little has changed."

Easter eggs generate about 3,000 tons of waste each year. Failure to act on excess packaging contrasts with the rhetoric of chocolate brands, many of whom are stressing their green credentials. Nestlé, who along with Lindt was this year's worst offender, has been boasting that its eggs were greener than ever, because some had recycled cardboard boxes.

The only retailer that reduced its packaging this year was Marks & Spencer, which reduced its egg wrapping by 57 per cent using a triangular card box instead of a cube. Sainsbury's was praised in the report for its efficiency of packaging, but it still increased the overall amount of plastic wrapping used compared to last year. Cadbury's "eco-egg", which is sold wrapped only in foil, also got a mention. The new egg reduces the amount of plastic packaging by more than 75 per cent but the report pointed out that it was still not as widely available as its leading eggs.

Ms Swinson said: "On plastic bags, Gordon Brown has already stated the need to go beyond the timid measures in Labour's lukewarm Waste Strategy. He should also use a stronger hand to deal with excess packaging, by introducing binding targets instead of the current voluntary ones."

The eight days around Easter are estimated to bring in £8bn to retailers, nearly £280m of which will be spent on chocolate eggs. A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation said: "Easter eggs are usually fragile constructions with a thin shell of chocolate which needs to be protected throughout the distribution chain to ensure that the egg arrives in a state which meets consumers' expectations."

A spokesperson for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said: "Easter egg packaging is clearly a work in progress still for brands and retailers. However, the work that Recycle Now is undertaking with [Easter egg manufacturers] does indicate that there is positive progress being made, from the incorporation of recycled material in the packaging, to providing ideas of how to use the packaging to make new fun items."

Read more about our packaging campaign at: independent.co.uk/packaging