Thousands of little chocolate eggs, all wrapped in foil
In his regular feature, Denis the Dustcart talks about little chocolate eggs, all wrapped in foil and how people in the UK get through millions in the run-up to Easter.
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Thousands of little chocolate eggs, all wrapped in foil.
I mean, I’m trying to cut down. They probably won’t be two for £1 next year, which will help.
People in the UK get through millions in the run-up to Easter – so from about October onwards.
Miles upon miles of silver foil, cut up into little squares, wrapped around not-quite life-sized eggs and afterwards scrunched into tiny balls to be discovered weeks later in the deepest corners of trouser pockets or in washing machine filters.
How much of it actually ends up being recycled?
In all likelihood, not very much.
But each tiny pip is precious – a little seed of aluminium that will help to grow new sheets when recycled carefully.
I say ‘carefully’, meaning ‘with willingness to put in a little effort’.
Because aluminium foil is, of course, about as recyclable as it gets…when it meets certain conditions.
For one, it must actually be placed in a recycling bin, not in a litter bin.
And a piece the size of a pea can’t go in the recycling bin on its own. Or rather, it can, but it won’t end up being recycled.
For it to stand a chance of being turned into aluminium again, it will need to be wrapped together with other pieces of foil into a ball of sufficient size to be seen and hand-picked off the recycling conveyor belt by someone wearing thick gloves.
I tend to collect all my little pips together and then wrap them securely in a larger piece of used foil (say, from a larger Easter egg). A foil packet about the size of a tennis ball is ideal, but a little smaller should be OK.
Contrary to what some well-intentioned folk may be doing, foil must not be placed inside an aluminium can. The can is thicker and will smelt at a higher temperature, meaning the foil will go pfft! up a chimney long before the can has had a chance to do anything.
While it may take some effort to recycle small pieces of foil, there’s no doubting it’s worth it.
The more eggs we eat, the more aluminium foil is needed to wrap them. The less foil we recycle, the more we have to make from raw materials and the more harm we do to our planet.
We’re talking biodiversity loss caused by mining swathes of land for raw bauxite. Copious greenhouse gas emissions from turning the bauxite into aluminium. The processes of mining, refining and smelting involves the use of incredible amounts of fuel, electricity and water.
Despite this, if producers replaced this foil packaging with single-use plastic then there would doubtless be public outrage.
Because, as we know, cheap plastic is hardly recyclable at all and aluminium is – handily enough for those seeking to put the onus on the consumer to ‘do their bit’ – endlessly recyclable.
Except when it isn’t – when the pieces are so small that they can’t be picked off the recycling line or even seen among all the other packaging.
Size matters, and this is why selling eggs in foil is especially convenient for producers.
Selling as much as possible of something designed to be consumed on-the-go means not only making it easy for people to buy that product (two for a pound, right by the checkout!), but also making sure they aren’t inconvenienced by the waste as they walk around – even if that’s just the inconvenience of finding a bin.
So, the smaller the better.
A pip of foil is only going to inconvenience someone who a) wants to recycle as much as possible and b) has learned enough about recycling to know that their pips of foil won’t be recycled without their putting in quite a bit of preparatory effort.
It isn’t just about the foil, of course: ethical chocolate is more available nowadays, but it isn’t going to outsell the non-Fairtrade, palm-oil-containing stuff this Easter.
As ever, reducing our consumption of foil-wrapped eggs would be best for the planet, But…it’s Easter.
I’m not about to tell anyone to stop eating chocolate. That would make me a right hypocrite. But I will ask you all to make sure you try to recycle your foil wrappings. It’s so important.
Your best bet is to do what I do and save all your little pips and wrap them in a larger piece – such as from a larger Easter egg.
Try to make the ball about the size of a tennis ball to ensure it is seen and picked off the line.