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The truth about Christmas chocolate packaging

Some of the Christmas chocolate boxes on sale are more than 40% packaging. Find out which come with the most waste, and whether it can be recycled

Christmas chocolate packaging

Packaging makes up an average 20% of the total weight of the bestselling Christmas chocolate selection boxes, our recent investigation has found.

Whether you’re giving them as presents, indulging in a post-turkey treat or fighting over the last Quality Street during the Queen’s speech, boxes of chocolates are part and parcel of a traditional Christmas.

But the issue of plastic waste has never been far from people’s minds in 2018. Is it time for manufacturers to think more carefully about the waste their festive products generate?

We’ve compared the weight of the contents and packaging of the top 13 bestselling Christmas selection tubs and boxes, to reveal which chocs will leave you with the least packaging to dispose of this festive season.

Scroll down to find out how much packaging you’re paying for, and whether or not it’s recyclable.

Best and worst chocolate selections for packaging

The 32-piece Ferrero Rocher Collection (359g) uses the most packaging compared with the other bestselling chocolates we looked at. Packaging makes up 42.4% of the total weight (642g) of this box, and the majority of this is not easily recycled.

Use our slider to see the difference between the packaged and unpackaged box:

Of the 13 boxes we investigated, the chocolates with the least packaging was Marks & Spencer’s The Big Selection Box (600g). Packaging makes up just 8.5% of this box’s total weight. Its cardboard box can be widely recycled, but the individual confectionery wrappers and plastic bag within the box will have to go in your general waste.

Use our slider to see the difference between the packaged and unpackaged box:

Lindt fans will be pleased to know that its Lindor Assorted Mix (337g) had the least packaging of the branded chocolate assortments we studied. Only the individual chocolate wrappers aren’t recyclable.

While the plastic window in the cardboard box can make it harder to recycle, recycling experts recommend putting this out with your other recycling as most recycling collectors should be able to deal with it.

Use our slider to see the difference between the packaged and unpackaged box:

See how much packaging you’re paying for in our full rankings below:

How much Christmas chocolate packaging is recyclable?

Packaging, and whether or not it can be recycled, has been hitting the headlines for the past year or so.

While the majority of packaging we looked at in this investigation can be collected by kerbside recycling schemes, some chocolate boxes had a surprising amount that can’t.

Most of the brands we looked at use boxes made from cardboard or PET plastic, which can be widely recycled. That means the only non-recyclable elements are the chocolate wrappers themselves.

However, as you can see in the table below, the majority of the Ferrero Rocher packaging we found was not easily recyclable. That’s because a lot of it is made out of non-recyclable polystrene (PS).

The plastic tubs that Celebrations, Roses, Quality Street, Heroes, Morrisons Mega Mix and Chocolate Treats by Sainsbury’s 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.

Aluminium foil features heavily in chocolate wrapping. While it is technically recyclable, anything smaller than 4cm will be lost in the recycling machines. If you have enough foil wrappers to scrunch them up into a big ball, that can go in the recycling bin. Otherwise it’s better off in the general waste.

For more advice on recycling, and what you can and can’t recycle, head to our guide to recycling in the UK.

What do the manufacturers say?

We took our findings to the chocolate manufacturers involved. Here’s what they had to say:

  • The Ferrero group, which also owns Thorntons, said it is working towards minimising the amount of plastic and packaging it uses. The hard, clear plastic packaging used for the Ferrero Rocher Selection is not currently easily  recyclable in the UK because it’s made of polystrene (PS). Ferrero told us it is important to protect the chocolates from damage and display them distinctively. It encourages customers to reuse the boxes.
  • Mars told Which? its packaging is designed to maintain freshness and quality but is working towards 100% recyclable packaging by 2025.
  • Nestlé said the most important factor in its packaging is keeping chocolates fresh and safe. It said that all of its packaging is recyclable, except the cellophane the chocolates are wrapped in. This is made of Natureflex, which is compostable. It has pledged to make all packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
  • Cadbury said that robust packaging is essential to the shelf life of its products and it is developing packaging that is 100% recyclable. For now, all the details of recyclability are shown on the pack.
  • Lindt & Sprüngli told us it is aiming for 100% recyclable materials with all its packaging. This includes looking into the Lindor packaging, which it says is appealing and protects the praline.
  • Marks & Spencer said it aims to only use plastic when it has a clear benefit. It said it will make sure that by 2022 all of its packaging will be easy to recycle.
  • Waitrose told us that most of its packaging is widely recyclable, and what isn’t is there to prolong the shelf life of the chocolates.
  • Sainsbury’s told us it’s committed to recyclable packaging and using as little non-recyclable packaging as possible. It says that plastic plays a key part in protecting products but it’s always looking to improve packaging.
  • Morrisons did not comment.

Our research

In November 2018, we selected the branded and supermarket chocolate selection boxes that take up the biggest share of the festive chocolate market to create a snapshot of their packaging. The list includes: Waitrose Christmas Chocolates Favourites 240g; Cadbury Milk Tray 360g; Lindt Lindor Assorted Mix 337g; Mars Celebrations 650g; Cadbury Roses 660g; Cadbury Heroes 660g; Mars Malteser Teasers 375g; Chocolate Treats by Sainsbury’s 650g; Thorntons Continental Selection 284g; Nestle Quality Street 720g; Morrisons Mega Mix 1.05kg; Marks & Spencer The Big One Selection 600g, and Ferrero Rocher Collection 359g.

To find out how the chocolate and packaging compared, we weighed all of the chocolates in their packaging. We then weighed the packaging on its own. To make sure we were getting accurate results, we unwrapped every element of the chocolate box.

We then worked out what could and couldn’t be recycled, and calculated how those weights compared.

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