Chocolate selection boxes are a Christmas classic, but when the volume of unnecessary plastic waste they generate is laid out in front of you, it’s enough to make you think twice about buying them.
A viral post on Facebook has sparked a debate about how sustainable these selection boxes are.
It also poses some big questions for eco-conscious chocolate lovers – should we be buying gifts like these that are more plastic than product?
All that plastic for less than 90g of chocolate
When they were first seen on shelves in the 1920s, chocolate selection boxes were considered to be luxury items only for well-off members of society.
At 10 shillings each, they would have cost the same amount as a week’s rent for a working class family at the time.
Today, selection boxes can be picked up cheaply in any supermarket.
We picked up a little one for £1 in discount retailer B&M to see for ourselves exactly how much plastic even the smallest modern selection boxes contain.
This Cadbury’s selection box is a classic and often found wrapped up under the Christmas tree for kids.
The plastic packet appeared to be a decent size, but once opened it was clear the inner plastic tray was taking up most of the room.
Inside was a Fredo, Chomp, Fudge, Curly Wurly and a small bag of chocolate buttons.
Altogether it measures just 89g of chocolate.
Should big companies change how they package festive chocolate?
Last year Cadbury’s announced that it was removing all plastic trays from its “adult” selection boxes, and this year you might have seen selection boxes in the supermarket with cardboard outer packaging too.
Although this is a good start from Cadbury’s and other chocolate brands like Galaxy, it’s clear there is a long way to go before selection boxes are plastic-free entirely.
Gina Adie is the owner of Refillosophy, an independent shop in Aberdeen which stocks all sorts of sustainable and plastic-free food and lifestyle products.
“At Christmas time things really do go overboard when it comes to plastic,” she said. “Even when I buy things from suppliers who make a big deal about being ‘plastic-free’, at this time of year lots of stuff comes wrapped up in plastic anyway.
“It’s very upsetting. I send the plastic back to them in the hope that the message will get through to them eventually.”
Like all shop owners at Christmas, Gina makes sure she’s got plenty of sweets and chocolate on the shelves for the festive season.
In her store, there’s a big treasure chest of loose, foil-wrapped gold coins and chocolate Santas as well as large bars of chocolate in various flavours wrapped in card and big jars of loose chocolate buttons ready for decanting.
“I hate seeing those selections boxes with the huge plastic tray and hardly any chocolate in it,” she said.
“Chocolate didn’t used to come wrapped in three layers of plastic, it used to come wrapped in foil and card – I’m old enough to remember that.
“I don’t see why big companies can’t go back to something like that, it would be so much better for the planet.”