Thursday, 4 December 2008

We would love you to recycle this packaging...

"....but you have to separate the cardboard from any plastic. Just pop it along to your local recycling centre, and place it in the relevant bin."

Well what can I say? I must be in chocolate heaven and so close to Christmas too! Not only am I sat enjoying a box of yummy Thorntons chocolate mints, but the considerate product designers have included instructions on what I should do with the packaging.

It's common knowledge that one of the problems with getting people to recycle is the lack of knowledge about whether something can be recycled. Indeed 48% of recyclers interviewed for WRAP's Barriers to Recycling study admitted to throwing things in the bin because they weren't sure what to do.

Which is why explicit instructions on consumer products is an absolute necessity.

So if you're the type of person who screams at products that whisper the words "Recyclable if facilities exist" with no hint of the materials used, you'll be inspired by Thorntons' range of chocolates that shout their credentials so loudly you'll no longer need a degree to work out your options.

Take the Mint Collection for example. The instructions explicitly state that the plastic used is 50% recycled PET, enabling consumers to check local facilities with confidence. The cushion pad that protects the chocolates can be recycled too, as it's just paper. I know that from simply reading the box. I didn't even have to tear it up to work it out.

How refreshing to find a product where there is no ambiguity over its core packaging. This is most definitely a worthy zero waste benchmark, especially as Thorntons are one of the few chocolate manufacturers to avoid wrapping their products in that annoyingly awkward film. Of course if I wanted to be picky, I would suggest an extra note for recycling the foil wrappers, but I'll be thankful for small mercies that things are moving in right direction.

And Thorntons aren't the only ones at it. It seems Nestle have been making an effort too, proudly announcing their kids' selection box now uses 40% less packaging than previous products and boasts clear instructions to recycle the plastic tray, which itself is made from 50% recycled PET (RPET) and 75% recycled board.

Yes I know it's cheaper and a more sensible zero waste option to pick your own selection and package them up yourself, but millions of people buy these things and even I remember the excitement over that special box at Christmas, so this feels like positive progress too.

But we can't forget that all these positive noises about recycling come at a time when the market for recyclables has taken a nose-dive. The good news is that WRAP has just launched a help service for local authorities that have concerns about their mounting piles of materials and their advice to the public is to keep recycling what packaging you can. I suppose these resources are just like stocks and shares. What's down one day is up the next and markets are still available for quality products, just as these chocolate boxes illustrate. Now that should inspire consumer confidence.

And talking about quality's time to get back to that box of chocolates. Well this is The Rubbish Diet after all...but at least you know I'll be responsible with the empty box.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs A,

This is the most important time of year for sales of chocolate, Thorntons being one of the finest producers.

It is good to see progress towards eventual sustainable packaging, with clear consumer instructions.

My personal interest is to investigate future Zero Waste possibilities only.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it's great to buy products with recycled packaging in them. THAT is what creates the demand for raw materials recycling. If everyone only recycles their paper, but doesn't buy recycled products, where do we think all our recycling is going?

I think it would help if all packages were labelled on the outside with the percentage on recycled content they have!

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi John - at Christmas, just like Easter it is really encouraging to see change in chocolate manufacturers' packaging. It is the start of the long windy road to zero waste opportunities, which needs all local authorities to provide facilities, the public to use them and then buy the recycled goods. Only then will there be the closed loop that makes zero waste possible. :-D

Hi Jen - too right. We so need this to happen. It's a no-brainer really, so let this be the encouragement that packaging designers might welcome :-D

Anonymous said...

Mrs A - what would we do without you testing out all these chocolates for us. I guess someone has to do it, right?
Great news on Thorntons as I'm sure they are a very popular choice this time of year. Stories like this make me feel very happy :)

Have a great day and good luck with your thingie today (I'm sleep deprived; forgive me)

Katy said...

Mmm, chocolate......

...sorry :)

That's a much better attitude from Thorntons than I found with Tesco - although in Sainsbury's the other week I noticed they include more information about the packaging, ditto for M&S.

Telling us what materials are in the packaging is a start. Choosing packaging which is recycled, and/or *easily* recyclable, is the next step. And there's a need to "think outside the box" too: check this out!

Anonymous said...

Hi again Mrs A,

I decided to check Thornton's Zero Waste possibilities this morning. Containers again win the day, with loose chocolates available.

My search for UK based Zero Waste chocolate is over. Nearer the time I intend to fill a large container for family and friends, for the feative season.

Tracey Smith said...

,,,,just give me a family sized bar of choccie anyday...paper and foil - I can deal with that easily!


Anonymous said...

I've tagged you I'm afraid - only take part if you want to, but I'd love to read your answers :)

Mrs G x

Almost Mrs Average said...

LOL Mrs G - my turn to be sleep deprived. Will be heading off to be very soon. Promise it's not down to too much choco :-D x

Hi Katy - Love your ISBO...your account of it rather than the reality of the case. Now as for those water bottles, they are *amazing*. (Peeps, if you've not checked them out already, you should click on Katy's link) :-D

Hi John - whoo hoo. Now that's a big thumbs up. We're lucky in Bury in that we've got Thorntons and an independent chocolate shop. All too tempting for me :-D

LOL Tracey - we must have gone through 3 of those this week. I really am suffering from Writers bottom and am so in need of a gardening session. Like you said a few weeks ago...roll on the Spring. :-D x

Mrs G - woo hoo another tag. I look forward to it. Promise it will be soon :-D

bin diver kate said...

Hmm, council perspective on this type of labelling is that it can be misleading... Sometimes packaging is labelled as recyclable but it really does depend on your local facilities. When we have centralised recycling (lol!!) labelling will be much easier.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

*sigh* Another reason why chocolate in the UK is better than chocolate in the US.

esther said...

its really great to see that efforts are being made...hopefully this will be a on-going process!

Almost Mrs Average said...

Wise words Kate - I guess the instructions on this box say "Just pop it along to your local recycling centre, and place it in the relevant bin" means that if people get there and find there's no recycling bin for plastic, they'll bung it in the landfill one.

Hi Lisa - and it's a long way to come and get some. My favourite has to be Swiss chocolate....mmm melt in your mouth heaven (and it just comes in cardboard and foil wrapping) :-D

Hi Esther - all we need is a match up with facilites, further reductions in packaging and a public that knows what to do...then we'll be laughing all the way to the recycling bank LOL :-D

VP said...

Hurrah - this has been a pet (or PET?) rant of mine for ages and it's good to see manufacturers are at last getting the message.

However we've had worrying news that several paper recycling depots have closed down our way recently as the price of waste paper has crashed. Another sign of the economic times.

Thanks for your visit over at my place - it was good to see you :)

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi VP - lovely to see you over here and enjoyed the pun. That's bad news about the paper recycling, which is why packaging free is always the best way to go. On the other hand an all singing all dancing paper recycling plant is being built in our neck of the woods over in the East of England, which shows someone's got confidence. :-D

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