Halloween treats have a tough problem: plastic packaging that’s difficult to recycle.
As America loads up on an estimated 600 million kilos of candy for Halloween, a handful of corporations are attempting to make it easier to recycle all those wrappers. But they acknowledge their efforts are only making a small dent and say more fundamental changes are needed.
Because the starting of October, Mars — the maker of Snickers and M&Ms — has distributed 17,400 candy waste collection bags to U.S. consumers through its website and at community events. The baggage may be stuffed with wrappers and packaging from any brand and mailed free to a specialty recycler in Illinois. That recycler, G2 Revolution, forms the packages into pellets and uses them to make waste bags for dogs.
The baggage fit around 4 ounces of fabric; if all 17,400 are returned, that might equal greater than 2 tons of recycled wrappers. But even then, the recycling program would still address only a fraction of the issue.
“What I’d wish to see is that this program actually goes away over time and we have now an answer where it’s now not required and we’re fully recyclable,” said Tim LeBel, president of sales for Mars Wrigley U.S.
Mars is partnering with Lexington, Kentucky-based Rubicon Technologies, a consultant and software provider that connects corporations and municipalities to recyclers. Since 2019, Rubicon has had its own program called Trash or Treat, which mails one free box to colleges, businesses and community groups to gather candy wrappers for recycling. A further box, or a box for private use, is $100; Rubicon says that covers the associated fee of creating the box, shipping it each ways and recycling the wrappers. Rubicon expects to send out 5,000 boxes this 12 months.
Mars and Rubicon won’t say how much they’re spending on their Halloween programs. Rubicon notes that it pays extra to UPS to offset the carbon emissions from shipping.
Plastic wrappers are perfect for candy for numerous reasons. They’re low-cost and light-weight, which cuts down on shipping costs, said Muhammad Rabnawaz, an associate professor in the varsity of packaging at Michigan State University. They’re also easy to change for various functions; some may need a coating so candy doesn’t keep on with them, for instance.
But plastic wrappers are a challenge for recycling corporations. They often contain a combination of materials, like foil, which have to be separated. They’re small and flimsy, making it easy for them to bypass typical sorting equipment. They need to be cleaned to remove grease, oil and other food waste. They’re multi-colored, so once they’re mixed together they arrive out as an unappealing brown.
Even when corporations do go to the hassle of recycling candy wrappers, they produce such a low-value plastic that it doesn’t recoup the associated fee of recycling.
“It’s got to be profitable. These guys aren’t social employees,” said Brandon Wright, a spokesman for the National Waste and Recycling Association, which represents waste management corporations.
Consequently, lots of plastic packaging finally ends up getting thrown away. In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging made up 21% of trash going into landfills in 2018.
That’s why it’s critical to have food corporations or individual consumers funding recycling efforts, said Tom Szaky, the CEO of TerraCycle.
The Latest Jersey-based recycling company recycles candy wrappers in the UK through partnerships with Nestle and Ferrero. Within the U.S., the corporate will ship boxes to consumers to gather candy and snack wrappers and return them for recycling. A small box is $86; a big one is $218. TerraCycle said that covers the associated fee of shipping and the multi-part recycling process.
Szaky said TerraCycle has recycled roughly 40 million candy wrappers worldwide since 2014.
Leah Karrer, a conservationist in Washington D.C., bought a TerraCycle box in 2020 and picked up 5 kilos of Halloween candy wrappers from about 20 neighbors. She liked raising awareness concerning the problem and supporting TerraCycle, but she hasn’t done it again since the box was so expensive.
“This shouldn’t be a cheap solution for many families, when the items can simply be thrown right into a trash container to be picked up totally free,” she said.
This 12 months, she ordered a free bag from Mars, in order that she will send a message that buyers care about plastic waste and wish corporations to change to sustainable packaging.
“The onus can’t be on the client to repair the large plastic waste problem,” she said. “The answer is system change.”
Candy makers say they’re spending hundreds of thousands to develop latest packaging that might be easier to recycle or compost.
Mondelez’s Cadbury introduced more easily recyclable packaging _ manufactured from 30% recycled plastic _ in some markets this 12 months. Mars recently partnered with Danimer Scientific, a biotech company, to develop compostable packaging. Hershey has set a goal of creating all its packaging easily recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030.
The National Confectioners Association, which represents the candy industry, says federal, state, and native governments also need to take a position in additional advanced recycling.
But Janet Dominitz, the chief director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, said recycling alone won’t ever sustain with amount of packaging waste people generate. Dominitz said single-use plastic packaging must be eliminated altogether.
“The issue isn’t the variety of candy wrappers on Halloween, however the 12 months a 12 months that our infrastructure is ready as much as throw away,” she said.