We throw away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year at Christmas in the UK, according to waste management company BIFFA.
That's enough to wrap around the Earth... more than eight times.
But it brands itself as paper - so surely it all just gets recycled?
The short answer? Not always.
And that's because gift wrap often contains much more than simply paper.
"It's a nightmare for paper mills this time of year," confesses Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association - a trade body that represents around 90 different paper merchants, waste management companies and other businesses involved in recycling paper.
That's because while they're presented with mountains of wrapping paper, they cannot work with all of it.
"Not all wrapping paper is paper," Simon points out. Some is plastic-based.
Then there's the issue of paper that's laminated with plastic not to mention gift tags or paper that contains foil or glitter, none of which can be recycled.
But once you've removed these items you can recycle a good deal of what you've wrapped your presents in, just as long as it's pure paper.
How do you check? Try to scrunch up the paper into a ball. If it scrunches, and stays scrunched, it can probably be recycled.
And if you've bought recycled wrapping paper in the first place, it can probably be recycled again.
So you've got recyclable wrapping paper - what do you do with it?
Even if your paper is recyclable - not all councils will take it.
Some will let you put it into the recycling collection. Others insist you bring it along to a recycling centre.
You'll need to check with your local authority. To find out which one takes your rubbish, click here for England and Northern Ireland, here for Wales and here for Scotland.
But could we do better than just recycling?
Well, we could make sure that the paper we buy in the first place is made from sustainable sources. This means that it hasn't resulted in deforestation or environmental damage.
You can look out for FSC-certified wrapping paper and other Christmas items such as cards and crackers.
Even better would be to not throw the paper away in the first place - but reuse it.
The Environment Agency has suggested that you make your own wrapping paper, as this encourages reuse: "How about getting creative using potato stamps to decorate parcel paper and adding a sprig of holly for that Christmas feel."
Or you could try to avoid wrapping paper altogether. Furoshiki are traditional cloths from Japan which are used to wrap presents instead of paper. The cloth can then be reused in future years or even given as a gift itself.
Candy Packaging: A Trick or a Treat?
The holidays are often a time for giving into guilty pleasures, and for many of us that means indulging in one too many treats. As we enter a different kind of holiday season with a heightened focus on food safety amid a pandemic, there’s a greater emphasis on the need for keeping the food protected properly, including the wrapping on your favorite sweets and candies. As a result, a unique dilemma has emerged – what do we do with all the packaging, especially since much of it can’t be easily recycled through traditional methods?
The “Scare”: The Packaging We Need is Difficult to Recycle
Candy wrappers are primarily designed to keep products fresh and safe for consumption, and in the case of softer treats like chocolate, help maintain form and avoid the messes that might result from melting. Many of these wrappers are made from innovative solutions that combine different materials like aluminum, paper and plastic. This mixture of materials is highly effective at maintaining quality, and keeping packaging weight to a minimum, but it presents a real recycling challenge.
The other aspect of the challenge here in the U.S. is accessibility, while in other parts of the world they’re a few steps ahead. In Australia, for example, soft plastics from many chocolate and lollipop wrappers are recyclable through the Red Cycle collection bins available at most supermarkets. The wrappers are recycled and then used to make products like benches and fences.
The “Trick”: Thinking Outside the “Zero Waste” Box
Traditionally recycling would be as easy as dropping the wrappers in your curbside cart, but because candy wrapping is made with mixed materials and can’t usually be sorted that’s not possible. A few local markets offer special solutions, so if you have access to one of those count yourself as lucky, but most consumers in the U.S. can’t utilize their curbside collection program. There are, however, a few alternative solutions that build on the power of many by recycling in bulk.
Enter waste collection boxes, a relatively new approach to recycling your wrappers and the only widely available solution in the U.S. market. Variations like TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box and Rubicon’s Trick or Trash box allow for recycling of any size or brand of candy and snack wrapper.
The “Treat”: An Investment For Your Community and Beyond
Purchasing just one box can bring together an entire neighborhood. It’s much larger than any one family would need, so use it as a way to bring your neighbors together. By having a few houses chip in, the effort not only becomes more economical, it helps advance the next evolution of recycling.
This year, Rubicon distributed at least one Trick or Trash box to schools and small businesses in every U.S. state. The more we embrace innovations like these, the more accessible they become, and the fewer materials go to waste.
I am confident that in the not too distant future our favorite candies will be wrapped in materials that are 100% recyclable, but until then, we shouldn’t be “scared” away from the best options of today.
Everything you need to know about candy packaging
The phrase ‘looks aren’t everything’ almost certainly does not apply to new products that you want to introduce to the market. After all, there is no doubt; the more attractive the candy boxes and wraps are, the more people will be interested in trying it out.
And although it might be a struggle to keep up with and stand out amongst the latest trends in candy packaging, this step is crucial to create an interesting product your customers will love. So you might be wondering, is it really that important for me to create innovative packaging?
The truth is, you do. The reasoning for this is simple – imagine yourself standing in an aisle in your local grocery store, staring at the hundreds of different candies, each with their own candy packaging.
That is what most of your customers will see when they encounter your product, which is why you need to make it stand out.
Candy Packaging trends
Before you can be innovative, you need to understand what the trends in packaging design are – with this as background knowledge, you can apply your twists to your product in order to truly make it your own.
Put simply, these are the kind of candy boxes and supplies that are convenient to open, use, and discard of. The data, as claimed by other candy brands is consistent: your customers won’t just love candy packaging that is convenient – they may go out of the way and actually pay more for it.
You might have seen this elsewhere when it comes to packaging – the use of clear plastic bags for candy is an obvious choice, and it is clearly one that appeals to the customers as well. These plastic pouches are just so easy to eat from because of their ability to be resealed.
The journey towards paper packaging for chocolate
How do you ensure both barrier functionality and recyclability?
This is indeed a challenge we are facing. We are using a special functional barrier paper. When we started the development process two years ago, there was no functional barrier paper available, but development has moved fast since then. The paper we used is coated with a water-based barrier material that is fit for recycling in the paper recycling stream. Of course, it would have been easy to use lamination instead, as this makes product protection easier. But even a thin layer of laminate makes recycling difficult, which is a key feature for us to give the material a second life. We are already using a lot of recycled paper materials for our displays, trade units etc. What we have now is not perfect yet, but this is a step-by-step process and a development journey. In 2021 we will launch a paper-based pouch, and we will integrate the learnings from that into the development process. We do not know if and how and when we will have 100% of paper-based packaging for 100% of our products, but it is a development journey.
Do you have any life cycle analysis data available yet comparing the paper packaging and the standard Ritter Sport packaging?
For us it is not so important to have answers as soon as possible, but to have the right answer. It’s about more than an LCA, it’s about the ecological footprint, CO2, water, energy consumption, energy sources, and what happens after consumption. We want to understand all pieces of the jigsaw and adapt it piece by piece. I would like to underline that I don’t want to engage in plastic bashing. Even though we have been talking a lot about paper, our plastic packaging material does a great job too - it is recyclable, albeit more in theory than in practice, and weighs just 1.5 grams. Our overall intention is to look at the future and to solve issues, one of which is recyclability, which is not always given especially for flexible packaging. In Germany, we have a good collection and recycling infrastructure for plastic, but internationally, there are better better collection and recycling systems in place for paper than there are for plastics, so we believe in paper and also want to understand plastic better. Packaging is an integral part of the overall Ritter sustainability strategy. We often talk about raw materials such as cocoa in a sustainability context, but consumer see the packaging just as much as they see the chocolate, so it is just as important as the ingredients are.
Why you shouldn’t wrap your food in aluminium foil before cooking it
If you’re baking fish, roasting vegetables or preparing a piece of meat for dinner tonight, chances are that you’ll wrap your food in aluminium foil. What you may not realise is that some of the foil will leach into your meal – and this could be bad for your health.
Research that I conducted with a group of colleagues has explored the use of aluminium for cooking and preparing food. Aluminium doesn’t just appear in foil: it is the most popular cookware material used by people in developing countries. Pots and pans are lined with it and it is found in some kitchen utensils like large serving spoons. Copper used to fulfil this role, but over time it’s been replaced by aluminium because it is cheaper to mass produce and easier to clean.
But while cooking your food in aluminium pots or pans isn’t a bad thing, placing it in foil and putting it in the oven is problematic. This is especially true with acidic or spicy food that’s prepared at high temperatures.
Aluminium and health
Human bodies can excrete small amounts of aluminium very efficiently. This means that minimal exposure to aluminium is not a problem: the World Health Organisation has established a safe daily intake of 40mg per kilogram of body weight per day. So for a person who weighs 60kg the allowable intake would be 2400 mg.
But most people are exposed to and ingest far more than this suggested safe daily intake. Aluminium is present in corn, yellow cheese, salt, herbs, spices and tea. It’s used in cooking utensils, as described above, as well as in pharmacological agents like antacids and antiperspirants. Aluminium sulfate, which is derived from aluminium, is used as a coagulant during the purification process of drinking water.
Scientists are exploring whether over-exposure to aluminium may be posing threats to human health. For instance, high concentrations of aluminium have been detected in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have examined the community of old people with Alzheimer’s and concluded that it is a modern disease that’s developed from altered living conditions associated with society’s industrialisation. These conditions may include high levels of aluminium in daily life.
Aluminium poses other health risks, too. Studies have suggested that high aluminium intake may be harmful to some patients with bone diseases or renal impairment. It also reduces the growth rate of human brain cells.