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Children's campaign to reduce plastic packaging gathers pace

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The children investigate whether there is too much plastic on Easter egg packaging? Credit: ITV News Anglia

A class of year five and six children at a primary school in Cambridgeshire have been campaigning for less plastic to be used on Easter egg packaging.

The children in Oak class at Rackham Primary School near Ely have been learning about plastic waste and how it's getting into the ocean. It's part of their topic this term called 'The Blue Planet'.

They've carried out investigation work into the different types of egg packaging and have written to their local MP as well as a few of the big chocolate companies to ask if something can be done about it.

Oak class examining Easter egg packaging from a number of different chocolate companies Credit: ITV News Anglia

"We'd like the companies to listen to us and try and reduce plastic. As children it's really important as it is their decisions which impact our future."

– Kate Lee, Oak Class

"Quite upset really because we had no idea that this was happening all around us."

– Madeleine Seymour, Oak Class
Mrs Ward teaching Oak class about plastic waste Credit: ITV News Anglia

"They totally believe that they can change the world and they are the ones, it's their generation that's got to make the difference. We are impacting the world that they are going to end up living in."

– Amanda Ward, Teacher

The figures for plastic waste are worrying. According to Greenpeace:

  • 50% of plastic is only used once and then thrown away
  • 12.7 million tonnes ends up in the ocean each year
Lucy Frazer has now taken up the class campaign Credit: ITV News Anglia

"We've got a 25 year plan to make ensure we eliminate all the unnecessary packaging plastics, the government has already taken a number of measures in relation to that, the 5p plastic bag, a consultation on plastic straws, banning micro beads. It is about educating people and often you'll find it's children educating their parents as well, so the initiative of Oak class is brilliant."

– Lucy Frazer MP, South East Cambridgeshire, Con

The children have had responses from Lindt in Switzerland and Thorntons in Derbsyhire.

"The topic of plastic waste has not gone unheard. Packaging is a very important part of the supply chain at Lindt & Sprüngli. Therefore, please be assured that we take the matter of plastic waste extremely seriously and we make sustainability a priority for our packaging. We see it as our permanent duty to consider, and wherever possible also realise, any potential improvement to our packaging.

Therefore we would like to announce that already for the Easter season 2019, we will be redesigning our most packaging-heavy Easter egg products in the UK. For 2020 we are working on re-engineering our full Easter egg product range in the UK to continue to remove non-essential plastic components. Overall, Lindt & Sprüngli is committed to aiming at using 100% recyclable and plastic free packaging wherever possible.

In addition, the Lindt & Sprüngli Group is currently working on a packaging waste reduction strategy. We hope to be able to publish the key elements by the end of this year."

– Spokesperson for Lindt & Sprüngli
All the children had a go at writing letters to ask for change Credit: ITV News Anglia

"We would like to thank Rackham School for writing to us. All of the packaging we use is carefully designed to maintain the freshness and quality that is the hallmark of our products. To date, we have achieved a reduction of nearly 160 tonnes of plastic across the Thorntons Easter range, and all the plastic trays and fitments for our Thorntons range are made from PET containing a minimum of 50% recycled plastic. We want to reassure everyone that we are strongly committed to environmental responsibility, and we are continually looking at improving the environmental impact of our packaging."

– Spokesperson for Thorntons
The children worked out the percentage of plastic used on each egg. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Cadbury said one of the key areas where it had eliminated packaging is in Easter eggs where the amount of carton packaging had been reduced by more than a half in ten years coupled with the removal of PVC shells.

Parent company Mondelez said it had also managed to develop Easter egg packaging that can be recycled while protecting the egg inside.

“Cadbury makes a committed effort to make sustainable decisions while also making products that are exciting and beautifully packaged. At Mondelez, reducing our environmental impact is one of our biggest priorities and our target is to reduce our packaging weight globally by 65,000 metric tonnes by 2020. By the end of 2016 we had already eliminated 46,300 tonnes. Not only has this resulted in less packaging waste but it has helped us to reduce our overall CO2 emissions by 100,000 tonnes between 2010 and 2014.

– Laura Flynn, spokesperson for Mondelez/Cadbury

"I've been really proud and impressed with the children's attitude as they've taken this forward. They really do feel that they've got a chance to make a change."

– Bridget Harrison, Headteacher