Children will wake up to smaller Easter eggs tomorrow – because chocolate makers have shrunk the packaging on millions of boxes by half.
Responding to complaints that excessive packaging was creating waste and misleading consumers about the amount of chocolate they were getting, confectioners have been steadily cutting paper and plastic wrapping over the past five years.
Cadbury has ditched plastic wrapping and shrunk boxes, slashing packaging by 16 per cent on large eggs and 13 per cent on medium ones this year. Swiss manufacturer Nestlé has knocked 12 per cent off packaging on medium eggs this year and its wrappings are now 100 per cent recyclable. Mars has removed most plastic inserts.
Overall, chocolate makers say the changes have cut the volume of packaging by half, saving thousands of tons of materials and thousands of lorry journeys.
Cadbury, now owned by Kraft, said: "We have almost halved the weight of our primary and secondary packaging in the past five years, which has not only saved more than 2,000 tons [of materials] but also reduced the number of HGV journeys by around 2,500."
Nestlé said this year's cuts – which have helped slash the weight of its packaging by 30 to 50 per cent since 2006 – had saved 100 tons of card.
Despite these reductions, campaigners say manufacturers must do more to ensure that the 80 million Easter eggs eaten each year are greener. Refuse collectors are expected to collect around 4,500 tons of Easter egg packaging this year, with many materials still not recyclable, according to the Local Government Association.
LGA environment spokesman Clyde Loakes said: "Retailers and manufacturers have listened to the concerns of the public and reduced the amount of unnecessary packaging on Easter eggs.
"However, over the next fortnight the UK's 29,000 refuse collectors will each be hefting an estimated 145kgs of Easter egg packaging into dustcarts, so there is definitely still more to be done."
An annual survey of packaging showed that eggs from Belgian chocolatier Guylian and Swiss manufacturer Lindt were one-third packaging.
Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson checked the volume and weight of packaging and chocolate on 13 eggs. Overall, Sainsbury's £2 egg came out best, with its egg accounting for 60 per cent of the product's volume. At the opposite end of the scale, Guylian's £5.99 product was, by volume, only 9 per cent chocolate egg.
Findings from the survey support the manufacturers' claims that they have all substantially reduced packaging by weight over the past four years.
Since 2008, the weight of Nestlé's egg packaging has halved from 43 to 21 per cent of the total product. Mars has slimmed down from 27 to 15 per cent and Cadbury from 23 to 17 per cent.
Ms Swinson, who backed The Independent's campaign against excessive packaging in 2007, said: "The overall trend is encouraging, with Mars and Cadbury taking steps to reduce the size of their boxes and Guylian introducing a more streamlined box to replace the product in this study."
She added, though, that manufacturers needed to make more packaging recyclable. She said: "Today's Easter egg packaging contains more guidance on recycling and environmental information than in 2007 and companies are working towards ensuring that all materials are recyclable.
"Despite this, Nestlé's packaging remains the only product surveyed where materials are 100 per cent 'widely recycled' and six of the 10 products surveyed, both this year and in 2010, continue to use materials which have to be disposed of in landfill."
Who has the greenest Easter Eggs?
60% Chocolate by volume
Green & Black's
41% Chocolate by volume
39% Chocolate by volume
Marks & Spencer
34% Chocolate by volume
and the least green
9% Chocolate by volume