Tucking into a box of chocolate despite finishing your Christmas dinner just a few hours ago is a tradition.
But have you ever stopped to look at how much of your box of chocolates is actually edible.
It turns out that 40% of the weight of some boxes is made up of packaging – and most of it cant be recycled.
Which? looked at the top 13 best-selling boxes of chocolates and found that Ferrero Rocher Collection was the worst offender with 42% of the total weight taken up by packaging and only 11 per cent of that packaging being recyclable.
Thorntons Continental Selection came in second with packaging taking up 29.4% of the whole weight, with 87% recyclable components.
Cadburys Milk Tray third was made up of 22.6 per cent, 93% of which was recyclable.
The Lindt Lindor Mix contained only 11.5 per cent packaging, with only the individual chocolate wrappers not being recyclable.
Marks & Spencer The Big One Selection has the least packaging at just 8.5 per cent, although you would only be able to recycle 71 per cent of it.
Which? found you could recycle over 80 per cent of the packaging of the majority of popular chocolate boxes. However, there was confusion when asking people what the different recycling symbols meant and how they would actually go about recycling.
Half (48%) wrongly identified the green dot, that is regularly found on packaging, as a sign that the packaging can be recycled. The green dot actually means that the manufacturer pays into a recycling scheme, and the packaging may not be suitable for recycling.
Nikki Stopford, Director of Research and Publishing at Which?, said: For many of us the indulgent look of these festive chocolate boxes is synonymous with the Christmas season.
We are more aware than ever of the impact that were having on the world around us – so we want our research to help people to make the right choices for them and to understand how to dispose of packaging in the most eco-friendly manner.
Ferrero Rocher Collection 359g
Weight in packaging – 642g
Packaging weight – 272g
Percentage packaging – 42.4%
Percentage easily recyclable – 11%
Waitrose Christmas Chocolate Favourites 240g
Weight in packaging – 356g
Packaging weight – 108g
Percentage packaging – 30.3%
Percentage easily recyclable – 96.3%
Thorntons Continental Selection 248g
Weight in packaging – 408g
Packaging weight – 120g
Percentage packaging – 29.4%
Percentage easily recyclable – 86.7%
Cadbury Milk Tray 360g
Weight in packaging – 470g
Packaging weight – 106g
Percentage packaging – 22.6%
Percentage easily recyclable – 92.5%
Mars Malteaser Teasers 275g
Weight in packaging – 364g
Packaging weight – 70g
Percentage packaging – 19.2%
Percentage easily recyclable – 88.6%
Chocolate Treats By Sainsburys 650g
Weight in packaging – 806g
Packaging weight – 154g
Percentage packaging – 19.1%
Percentage easily recyclable – 88.3%
Mars Celebrations 650g
Weight in packaging – 812g
Packaging weight – 150g
Percentage packaging – 18.5%
Percentage easily recyclable – 90.7%
Cadbury Heroes and Cadburys Roses 660g
Weight in packaging – 808g for Heroes and 810g for Roses
Packaging weight – both 144g
Percentage packaging – both 17.8%
Percentage easily recyclable – Roses 90.3% and Heroes 88.9%
Nestle Quality Street 720g
Weight in packaging – 846g
Packaging weight – 130g
Percentage packaging – 15.4%
Percentage easily recyclable – 83.1%
Morrisons Mega Mix 1.05kg
Weight in packaging – 1216g
Packaging weight – 162g
Percentage packaging – 13.3%
Percentage easily recyclable – 81.5%
Lindt Lindor Assorted Mix 384g
Weight in packaging – 384g
Packaging weight – 44g
Percentage packaging – 11.5%
Percentage easily recyclable – 90.9%
Marks & Spencer The Big One Selection 600g
Weight in packaging – 662g
Packaging weight – 56g
Percentage packaging – 8.5%
Percentage easily recyclable – 71.4%
Of course the companies who produced the chocolates have defended their packaging and most say they are trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use.
Ferrero/Thorntons said: The packaging we use is carefully designed to maintain the freshness and quality that is the hallmark of Ferrero products.
Ferrero Collection is a delicately created product and the packaging is of fundamental importance to protect our chocolates from damage during transport, in the shops and at home. To maintain the integrity and upmost quality for our consumers we package the product in its distinctive box, appreciated by consumers.
The box used for Ferrero Collection can be recycled only when the local infrastructure allows to do so but in the UK this is still not available. We are aware that some consumers like to reuse the boxes in fun and creative ways like those suggested on our website. The durable box, designed specifically for Ferrero Collection, fulfils this important criteria
Furthermore, Ferrero Collection is mainly bought as a gift during Christmas, so packaging tends to be more than for products bought on a daily basis.
Thorntons Continental packaging has been updated with a new hermetic tray seal, which ensures product freshness and avoids cross flavour tainting from the most intense tastes as Espresso or Sicilian Mousse. We are always reviewing our product range to ensure that we offer our consumers high quality taste experience.
A spokesperson for Cadbury said: Cadbury makes a committed effort as a brand to make sustainable decisions.
Without robust packaging, the shelf life of many products would be far shorter and could create more food waste which is ten times more detrimental to the environment than plastic.
We have managed to make substantial progress to minimise the environmental impact of packaging by developing products that are 100% recyclable (depending on your local recycling facilities) while also protecting the product inside and keeping it fresh. All details of recyclability are clearly detailed on pack.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, added: Our packaging is designed to maintain the freshness of our products and ensure that they reach our consumers in top quality condition.
We are continuing to work towards 100% recyclable packaging by 2025 by collaborating with our partners and peers to learn more about the best ways to enable recycling – for example, were a core partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundations New Plastics Economy initiative.
Beyond recycling, were also looking for new ways to further reduce our packaging footprint by working with our material suppliers to create new materials and product formats.
Lindt & Sprüngli, the company that makes Lindor chocolates, said: We would like to point out once more that the topic of plastic waste is important to us.
Packaging is a very essential part of the supply chain at Lindt & Sprüngli. Therefore please be assured that we take the matter of plastic waste extremely seriously and we make sustainability a priority for our packaging. We see it as our permanent duty to consider, and wherever possible also realize, any potential improvement to our packaging.
Overall, Lindt & Sprüngli is committed to aiming at using 100% recyclable materials and plastic free packaging wherever possible.
This commitment also includes the assessment of the current Lindor packaging, which is characterized by its distinctive wrapping. It services as both protection for the praline from external influences such as undesirable odors, light and temperature but also as an appealing packaging.
For some products as for example our Easter Eggs, we already took action and re-designed our packaging-heavy Easter egg products in the UK for 2019. Furthermore, a re-engineering of our Easter packages will remove non-essential plastic components by 2020.
Nestle commented: How we package our products is fundamental to how we keep them fresh and deliver them safely to the people who will ultimately consume them.
With a product like Quality Street we also have the added consideration of tradition. Quality Street is well-known as an assortment of chocolates and toffees that come individually twist-wrapped in a tin, tub or carton.
- Boxes of chocolates are often individually wrapped in foil, which is marked as recyclable on the box.
- Foil wrappers can be recycled but you need to make a bundle of at least 4cm in diameter for it to actually be identified at the recycling centre.
- The plastic tubs that Celebrations, Roses, Quality Street, Heroes, Morrisons Mega Mix and Chocolate Treats by Sainsburys are made of PET 1. This is the same plastic that water and soft drinks bottles are made of. Easily recycled, this is collected by 99% of local authorities.
- For more advice on recycling and what you can and cant recycle, head over to the Recycle Now website.
A lot of work has gone into making our Quality Street packaging as sustainable as possible. Our tins, plastic tubs, cardboard cartons and foil can all be recycled while the cellophane wrappers are compostable.
As founding signatories to the WRAP Plastics Pact, we are absolutely looking into alternatives for any of our current packaging which is not yet recyclable.
Again, it will be vital to make sure that any alternative keeps our products in top condition from manufacture to consumption and we are looking at ways we can do that.
Earlier this year we pledged to make all of our packaging either recyclable or re-usable by 2025 and the work we are doing in this space, to research, develop and trial new packaging ideas, is all designed to help us meet that target.
Waitrose said: All the packaging for this product is widely recyclable apart from the film which is there to protect the chocolates and to prolong shelf life. The black plastic insert tray has recently been replaced by rPET which is more widely recyclable.
We have removed all (hard to recycle) black plastic from our own label boxed chocolates range and weve recently brought forward our target to make all our own-brand packaging widely recycled, reusable or home compostable from 2025 to 2023.
Finally, Sainsburys said: Were committed to ensuring our packaging is as recyclable as it can be. Where we cant offer a recyclable alternative, well look to use as little of it as possible.
However, its important to remember that the purpose of packaging is to protect products through our supply chain, in our stores and in customers homes to ensure they dont get damaged or contaminated.
That said, were always looking at ways to improve our packaging and were ensuring chocolate is included in our reviews going forward.