Susan Froome looks at the waste associated with our Easter chocolate obsession

So, Easter is behind us and whilst I’ve been glad of the break and the chance to catch up with family and friends, I do wonder what on earth we are going to do to break out of this apparently never-ending cycle of waste associated with our public holidays.

I have been amazed at the amount of packaging that you get with Easter eggs and, as many articles on the hub point to, we are doing real harm to our oceans – and potentially ourselves, if we continue throwing away things like plastics without any thought or care.

Now I’m lucky that my two girls have never really been in to chocolate much, so we celebrate Easter with a really fun egg hunt and they get other treats at the end.

But that doesn’t stop friends and family buying the girls eggs (which mean me and my husband end up eating them – oh dear!).

And the amount of packaging is simply shocking.

Cracking the egg problem

According to many news reports over the weekend, including this one in the Independent, Easter eggs will be responsible for an estimated 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the UK alone.

We buy over 100 million Easter eggs every year as a society (not for me and my husband, I promise you!) and the packaging around this ‘chocolate treat’ has been found to be completely excessive.

The Telegraph reported on a study by Which? Which found that the worst for waste in the top-10 selling Easter eggs, was the Thornton’s Classic Large Egg, with the packaging making up more than 36% of the weight.

Second in the list of shame for excessive packaging was Lindt's Lindor Egg, with packaging accounting for 28% of the weight.

Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson is quoted in the Independent as describing Easter treats as “a symbol of the excess plastic packaging that is still prevalent across the food industry and other consumer industries”.

I think she’s got a point!

In my previous blog I talked about how my daughters were horrified at the waste they saw in the sea when we were on holiday. 

What’s even worse is that this waste, and plastics in particular, are breaking down so that microscopic particles are being eaten by sealife and is then ending up in our foodchain.

There was even the report recently that bottled water had been found to contain particles of plastic in it!

Jo Swinson’s report is a follow-up on a previous one from 2012 and she concludes that packaging levels in Easter eggs have not improved since then, finding that about 25% of the weight of a typical Easter egg comes from the packaging.

So it is clearly self-evident that something must be done and if this means we need to rethink the way we celebrate Easter and look at the packaging around Easter eggs, then I for one and all for it.

Eggs also have a huge footprint

In addition to this, scientists at the University of Manchester have found that the carbon footprint associated with the production of chocolate is phenomenal, so the potential damage associated surely must bring into question the value to society of this once a year event.

The report, published in Food Research International shows that it takes around 10,000 litres of water to make a kilogram of chocolate and the industry has a serious global warming potential (GWP) through production and changes in land use.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we’re involved in an industry that is being challenged to demonstrate clear positive steps that reduce the global warming potential of refrigerants used in our air conditioning systems and, as a responsible manufacturer, we are doing all we can to reduce this impact.

If you’ve been following all the articles on R32 for example, you’ll know all about the need to deliver sustainable, comfortable buildings, whilst ensuring we minimise the effects on the environment. There are several as a quick search for R32 above will show but here are links to some of the most popular:

-          18 Things you need to know about R32

-          32 Reasons to pay attention to your air conditioning

-          May the 4th be with you

-          R32 – why the change and why now?

The GWP of chocolate

Going back to the chocolate now, the Manchester report also highlights that the GWP of chocolate can be 2.9-4.2 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram, and this GWP could readily be improved by between 14-19% if a variety of options were implemented.

So, there’s an awful lot that the producers of Easter eggs could do to reduce any potential harm that their products could cause to the environment.

And that’ where we as individuals can play our part. 

My colleague Ellina has previously written about whether you can find ‘ethical’ Easter eggs that truly tried to look after the interest of everyone involved, from the farm to the table.

Perhaps now we need to all base our consumer choices on the products that bring us the most happiness, whilst doing the least damage to our precious planet.

Susan Froome is Marketing Administrator at Mitsubishi Electric