Monday, Dec. 04, 2023|
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Halloween treats have a tricky problem: plastic packaging that’s difficult to recycle.
As America loads up on an estimated 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween, a handful of companies are trying 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.
Since the beginning 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 bags can be filled 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 bags fit around 4 ounces of material; if all 17,400 are returned, that would equal more than 2 tons of recycled wrappers. But even then, the recycling program would still address just a fraction of the problem.
“What I’d like to see is this program actually goes away over time and we have a solution where it’s no longer 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 companies and municipalities to recyclers. Since 2019, Rubicon has had its own program called Trick or Trash, which mails one free box to schools, businesses and community groups to collect candy wrappers for recycling. An additional box, or a box for personal use, is $100; Rubicon says that covers the cost of making the box, shipping it both ways and recycling the wrappers. Rubicon expects to send out 5,000 boxes this year.
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 a challenge for recycling companies. They often contain a mix of materials, like foil, which must be separated. They’re small and flimsy, making it easy for them to bypass typical sorting equipment. They have to be cleaned to remove grease, oil and other food waste. They’re multi-colored, so when they’re mixed together they come out as an unappealing brown.
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