Easter is the Sunday after next, April 8: If you’re planning to fill a basket with chocolate eggs, crinkly cellophane grass, jelly beans and a stuffed rabbit, take a moment to consider the packaging of all the sweet stuff. How much plastic and cardboard is used to keep one chocolate egg in a pristine state? Are the materials recyclable? Is that plastic grass really necessary?
Commercially produced Easter eggs generate an estimate 3,000 tons of waste every year in the UK, says the government’s waste advisory body, Wrap. Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has issued a 2012 Easter Egg Packaging report which says that only 38 percent of what’s in an Easter egg box is an egg, the same figure as she found last year, says the Guardian. Eleven eggs from different brands — including Mars, Nestlé, Cadbury and Thorntons and also products from stores such as Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer — were weighed and measured and rated according to the ratio of chocolate egg to packaging and for their recyclability as a whole.
The big candy companies — Mars, Nestlé and Cadbury — have gone the furthest to cut down the amount of packaging and to make packaging recyclable. Indeed, Nestlé’s packaging was found to be 100 percent recyclable. In contrast, “luxury eggs from Thorntons, Baileys and Marks & Spencer continue to rely on plastic packaging that is not recyclable in most local authorities.” Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference egg even contained incorrect information on the plastic packaging, which indicated that it is recyclable though it actually is not.
The Easter egg that was ranked highest for recyclability was Montezuma’s Easter egg, with an “innovative design made of just two parts – a biodegradable outer shell and recyclable foil wrapping.”
It’s not only the packaging around chocolate eggs that generates excessive waste. How many hard-boiled eggs are dipped in vats of vinegary dye, never to be eaten? The West Seattle Blog describes a program to collect them for fertilizer. An article in the Kokomo Perspective suggests foregoing the traditional basket and using a container — “a laundry basket, purse or a toolbox” — that could have other uses. Use recycled green paper to make shredded grass instead of buying the bright green stuff (that clings annoyingly to everything). Use fruits and vegetables to make environmentally friendly dyes for eggs; these may not dye eggs the technicolor-bright hues as commercial dyes but everything needn’t be neon bright.
But it would certainly be a good thing if, after the chocolate eggs are consumed, there’s no pile of oval-shaped plastic pieces clogging the trash bin.
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