A recent report from Ocean Conservancy found candy & snack wrappers as the top litter in the ocean. The 2019 Global Beach Cleanup had 116 countries participating, covering 24,000 miles of coast and gathering 20.8 million tons of trash. Cigarette butts, for 34 years the top litter, were dethroned by wrappers, with 4.7 million individual wrappers gathered in several beaches around the globe. Read the full report here.
Hard to Recycle
Candy & snack wrappers are made of several layers of different materials, called multilayer packaging. The layers are great to keep the food fresh, and prevent spoiling. However, it makes very hard to recycle them, as it would involve layer separation before recycling.
No need to say they are not collected in curbside recycling. Its place is in the garbage bin, ending up in the landfill and then streets, forests and rivers (understand how). The wrappers take over 20 years to decompose!
What You Can Do
- Buy bulk: many supermarkets have bulk aisles now – yes, it’s becoming trendy – and there is a variety of chocolates, candies, almonds, chews, and lots more. Bring a jar or bag and fill up on a few to see what you like best. Fancy chocolate shops, like Godiva, also sell bulk, ask them in a plate or in a paper bag. Refuse to bring it home in a hard plastic single-use container or bag.
- Look for paper + foil/aluminum, separate: some brands have chocolate bars wrapped in a paper outer layer and a foil inner layer. Both layers can be recycled separately.
- Tip 1: take care not to tear the foil too much, as small pieces that come loose from the main portion aren’t likely to actually get recycled once they make it to the recycling facility;
- Tip 2: if you are not sure the foil is truly aluminum, try to crumple it up in a ball. If it holds, it can be recycled. If it bounces back, it’s likely mixed with plastic and can’t be recycled;
- Brands we’ve tried: Lindt, Ghiradelli, and Chocolove.
- Choose compostable wrappers: chocolate or candy wrapped solely in paper is a great example of compostable packaging. There is also a brand called Alter Eco who developed its own compostable (not recyclable) wrapper. It’s also organic, fair trade, and environmentally responsible!
One step further
Children are being trafficked in everyday to work on cocoa farms as slaves. The candy companies admitted that they knew this was a problem and promised to fix it. Check if the company who makes your chocolate is using ethically sourced beans. Read more here.