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Mars is trialling recyclable paper packaging for its chocolate bars at Tesco stores as part of a new pilot test to explore different packaging options. But will you be able to recycle the wrappers in your kerbside recycling bin…?
Following the trial, Mars says it will use the learnings from the launch with Tesco to inform other trials across the UK as part of the company’s “Sustainable in a Generation Plan".
As part of Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan, the company says it’s investing “hundreds of millions” to meet its goal of reducing its use of virgin plastics by a third in the short term, which includes using less plastic, recycled plastic and alternatives to plastic packaging.
Adam Grant, General Manager, Mars Wrigley UK, commented to Circular Online: “With our Mars bar pilot project, we are taking a big step to see how paper-based packaging works in everyday life. From the test, we will derive insights for our sustainable packaging strategy.
“While challenges may impact the pace of progress towards our vision, we at Mars Incorporated are committed to scaling up viable solutions where recycling options exist and to test, learn, partner and advocate where they don’t.”
The team at J&B Recycling are delighted to see leading global companies, like Mars, focusing on the need to reduce plastic waste and paving the way for more sustainable packaging solutions. However, it is worth noting that it may not be possible for such paper-based wrappers to be recycled through kerbside recycling schemes here in the UK.
Whilst in principle all fibre-based packaging is recyclable, innovations in material development can make some products more challenging to recycle. This means basic recyclability assessments based on visual or a simple compositional analysis are no longer sufficient to capture the complexities of the recycling process and accurately reflect the true recyclability of packaging.
Mars promotes their new wrappers as being ‘paper based’. This means that whilst a high percentage, perhaps even 99%, of the wrapper is made from paper, there is a small percentage of ‘other’ material present – this is usually a plastic or wax coating.
Any form of plastic or wax coating deems the paper to be non-recyclable at a standard* paper mill and would be classed as contamination.
We reached out to several of our customers who purchase paper, cardboard and cartons recovered by J&B Recycling and reprocess the materials at their paper mills in the UK. They all concur with our thoughts - that the wrappers are unlikely to be recyclable in a standard paper mill. They may need to be recycled through a specialist** paper mill, meaning that they cannot be easily separated from other kerbside fibre waste that goes to standard mills, and are therefore unsuitable to be included in kerbside collection schemes.
One of our customers highlighted that this is a good example of something that should be tested through the new CPI “Papercycle” recyclability assessment package.
Developed by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and supported by the UK’s Paper-based Industries, Papercycle’s automated online tool provides a robust, comprehensive system to assess the recyclability of fibre-based products and materials in a consistent and credible way. It also identifies whether fibre-based packaging materials can be recycled in the UK and which type of recycling mills can reprocess them.
We don’t know if Mars are aware of this new scheme, or if the wrappers have been assessed by Papercycle, but we are sure they are working with some of the industry’s leading advisors, and we hope that the message about recycling is made very clear on their packaging and through their promotional messages.
Whilst we have reservations about the recyclability of the wrappers and how this message will be delivered, we do not want to detract from the positive move away from plastic, which is made from non-renewable fossil fuel, to paper, which is a renewable source.
This is just one of the pilot projects Mars, Incorporated is implementing this year. The company says its other efforts include avoiding unnecessary packaging, using recyclable mono-materials, using reusable packaging models and processing recycled materials in new packaging.
Along with the paper-packaged Mars bar, the brand’s Carbon Neutrality status is a first for the company in the UK. The company says the neutrality status was achieved through carbon credits and actual carbon emission reductions. The neutrality status was certified by SCS Global and, Mars says, the change will make 200 million bars per year carbon neutral in the UK, Ireland and Canada.
Commenting on the pilot, Richard Sutherland-Moore, Packaging expert at Mars Wrigley UK’s Research and Development Centre in Slough, said: “We are exploring different types of alternative packaging solutions for our confectionery products.
“For Mars bar, the challenge was to find the right paper packaging solution with an adequate level of barrier properties to protect the chocolate whilst guaranteeing the food safety, quality and integrity of the product to prevent food waste.”