Mars Inc., the company behind many iconic candy brands, is switching to paper-based packaging for three of the company's well-known chocolate bars in Australia and New Zealand.
While the decision only transitions about 396 tons (360 tonnes) of packaging from plastics to paper starting in April, the move is receiving significant attention as the company is vowing to continue seeking change.
Paper-based packaging was once a norm for candy bars but has transitioned over time to oriented polypropylene film. The problem, however, has been that there is virtually no way for recyclers to handle the small-format packaging with conventional sorting equipment. So candy wrappers typically become trash.
Mars, a $40 billion privately held company, has spent nearly three years on the project that will allow paper wrappers for Mars, Snickers and Milky Way chocolate bars to be recycled through curbside collection.
"We wanted to make it easy for our consumers to recycle our products. But it was no mean feat. There was no playbook, no guardrails and no road map, but today, we can sit back and say we've done it," Andrew Leakey, general manager of the company's Mars Wrigley Australia division, said in a LinkedIn post.
"We will be the first chocolate bars in Australia to be wrapped in recyclable paper-based packaging, and the work our team has done in Australia to get us to this point is a world-first for Mars Wrigley," he said.
The company also released a video explaining the change.
“As one of Australia’s largest treats and snacks manufacturers, we know we have a responsibility and believe that we have a part to play in a sustainable future. We believe the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. This includes looking at ways that we can impact through redesigning our packaging to help with the circular economy,” Leakey said in the video.
He said the transition to from plastic to paper for the three chocolate bars “is the first step of many” in creating a sustainable future.
“Our shift to paper-based packaging markets a significant milestone," Leakey said.
Chris Hutton is the research and development director for Mars Wrigley Australia. “Our local R&D team is leading the way globally, rethinking how we package our products and driving design changes for a more sustainable future,” he said in the video.
Mars also signaled the R&D work done at the company’s manufacturing plant in Ballarat, Australia, will have a wide impact on packaging changes for the company’s global operations.
“With the plan for the technology, learnings and insights developed and deployed locally in Australia to be shared and implemented in other Mars Wrigley markets across the globe,” the company said.
Work on the new paper-based candy wrappers comes as Australia moves closer to 2025 and a set of National Packaging Targets adopted in 2018. Those 2025 targets seek that 100 percent of packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable; 70 percent of plastic packaging be recycled or composted; and 50 percent average recycled content in packaging.
Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, a nonprofit group, is facilitating work to meet the target goals by the end of 2025. “Phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging is essential to shift our economy and community away from single-use disposable plastic packaging to more durable reusable and recyclable packaging,” the group said on its website.
Regarding the candy bar switch, APCO CEO Chris Foley said the change can help guide others.
“Mars Wrigley’s switch to paper-based packaging sets an excellent example to all businesses in Australia of the critical role innovative packaging formats that are more readily recyclable play in meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets,” Foley said in a statement.