Lib Dem MP slams Easter egg packaging

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

MP Jo Swinson has accused firms of “hiding behind green credentials”
MP Jo Swinson has accused firms of “hiding behind green credentials”

Related tags: Easter

Confectionery manufacturers have come under fire from Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who accused some firms of being too complacent on the packaging efficiency and recyclability of Easter eggs.

Swinson accused some manufacturers and retailers of “hiding behind green credentials”​ with packaging that was too difficult for consumers to recycle.

As part of her 2012 Easter Egg Packaging Report, the MP for East Dumbartonshire levelled specific criticism at the packaging of luxury eggs from firms, such as confectioner Thorntons and retailer Marks & Spencer.

These firms continued to rely on packaging that was not recyclable in most local authorities, she claimed. This resulted in confusion among consumers when it came to disposing of the products.

Easter egg boxes

The report found the percentage of Easter egg boxes taken up by chocolate was 38%, the same figure as last year.

In addition a number of firms were not ensuring their packages were made from widely recyclable materials, meaning much of the packaging still ended up in landfill sites, Swinson claimed.

She said: “Since launching this report in 2007, the main chocolate companies have acted to reduce their packaging and improve recyclability. However, there are still a number of businesses that rely too much on plastic and are sitting on their laurels​."

"A few manufacturers are hiding behind green credentials with packaging that isn't easily recyclable by the majority of consumers. It is not impossible and there are now a number of examples of best practice out there to show how it can be done.”

Swinson also warned that manufacturers still had more work to do to prevent Easter eggs “drowning in excess packaging".

The accusations come despite confectionery giant Nestlé’s announcement last week that it had become the first major manufacturer to produce Easter eggs with 100% recyclable packaging across its entire range – a fact that the report acknowledged.

It also praised confectioners Mars and Cadbury for using packaging made from widely recyclable materials, such as cardboard, for their medium-sized eggs.

Thornton's dismissed Swinson's claims that firms had not done enough and highlighted that it had once again reduced the amount of Easter egg packaging used this year.

A spokeswoman said: "Thorntons has once again made reductions to its Easter packaging this year, as part of its continued commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its products. Thorntons is continually looking at reducing the amount of packaging it uses, phasing out environmentally unfriendly plastics and sourcing more recyclable materials from sustainable sources across all of its products.
Thorntons reduced its Easter packaging in 2009 by 22% and has continued to make reductions every year since then. This Easter season Thorntons has reduced its packaging by 9.69t."

Greater consistency

The Food and Drink Federation argued that many firms would also benefit from "greater consistency​" between the recycling services offered to householders by different local authorities. But it welcomed the acknowlegement of the work already achieved by some manufacturers.

A spokeswoman said: "The FDF is pleased to see that the report acknowledges the significant progress made by manufacturers in both reducing packaging around Easter Eggs and making more of the packaging used recyclable.

"Many of these reductions have been achieved as part of work under the WRAP Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement in which several of our members continue to be involved."

Swinson’s criticism was rejected by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which claimed that retailers had made “massive progress​” on reducing packaging over the past few years.

Bob Gordon, head of environment at the BRC, said: “First and foremost, Easter eggs are a gift and their packaging is an essential part of that Nonetheless, retailers have made massive progress over recent years reducing the quantity of packaging involved, so much so that it’s now hard to take further dramatic strides.

Retailers know that packaging matters to consumers and they’ve responded. Easter eggs are single products which come out once a year. We’ve got our sights set on far bigger goals, such as reducing the carbon impact of all packaging by 10% in the next three years.”


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