It is perhaps the ultimate guilt-free invention for die-hard chocoholics looking to destroy the evidence of their crime.
After the chocolates have been devoured, the empty tray – scourge of recyclers – can not only be put on the compost heap, but will also disappear completely if placed under a running tap.
Marks & Spencer is using the new packaging for the first time in its entire Swiss Chocolate Collection range. The new products go on sale in store from today, in anticipation of high demand from shoppers in the runup to Christmas.
The trays will be made of plantic, a material made from starch that is 100% compostable. When plantic becomes moist it breaks down completely, making it ideal for home composting.
Helene Roberts, head of packaging at M&S, said: "This is a fantastic step forwards for food packaging – we know our customers really want to be responsible and using plantic means they can enjoy a delicious box of chocolates without the worry of what to do with the leftover tray – they can just throw it on their compost heap." Once on the compost heap, the plantic tray will take around three weeks to break down completely. If the tray is put under water it will dissolve in a matter of minutes.
In the new chocolate boxes, the outer layer is made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cardboard, while the mat that sits on top is made from greaseproof paper and is also fully recyclable.
The only material not compostable will be the plastic film wrapped around the box. This is made from PP – recyclable but not currently collected in Britain.
M&S was the first British retailer to trial plantic in 2007, and after successful customer feedback the retailer decided to use the material for its entire range of Swiss chocolates which have just gone on sale for Christmas.
This will be the widest range of products available on the high street packed in plantic. The tray will also be rolled out for another Christmas favourite, mince pies.
The move is part of manufacturers' and retailers' drive to increase the amount of packaging they use from renewable and sustainable materials.
Roberts added: "We want to make sure the packaging we use can be easily recycled or composted – this is not only better for the environment but also for our customers who can now enjoy a box of guilt-free chocolates – they just have to resist eating them all at once."
Development of the new biodegradable packaging has been spearheaded in Australia, and packaging experts and scientists believe it has the potential to revolutionise the mainstream confectionery packaging market.
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