How much plastic and how much chocolate is really in your Christmas selection box
THE chocolate selection box has been around since the 1920s, and at the time one could set you back 10 shillings which was the average weekly wage for a working class family.
Now selection boxes are less luxurious and can be found in supermarkets with brightly printed plastic packaging for as little as £1. Reporter Laoise Gallagher investigates what the big brands are doing to make these Christmas treats more sustainable.
Selection boxes have developed massively in the past couple of decades and now it's not only chocolate packaged up in Christmas plastic – chewy sweets, jewellery, cosmetics and candles were also presented in shiny festive wrapping.
After a viral post on Facebook, a debate has been sparked about how sustainable these boxes are with many being more plastic packaging than actual product.
With the COP26 summit in Glasgow creating a global conversation on climate change, for many it is now important to make small changes in every day life to be more sustainable.
I picked up all of the big brand chocolate boxes at one shop to compare and see if their efforts in packaging are becoming more environmentally friendly.
Maltesers selection box – £1
The Maltesers box costs just £1, so the small amount of chocolate inside was somewhat predictable.
However, on the shelf it measured up in size to the more expensive competitors, with the solid plastic framing creating a very disappointing illusion.
The box includes miniature versions of the brand classics – Twix, Mars, Milky Way and of course Maltesers.
In total this weighs 73g but on the plate it appeared very underwhelming.
This box is definitely not great for the amount of plastic packaging versus the small amount of chocolate left to enjoy.
A spokesman for Mars assured that the brand is committed to becoming more environmentally friendly.
They said: "At Mars, we’re committed to reducing the plastic in our packaging.
"This year alone we’ve announced the removal of over 370 tonnes of plastics from products across our businesses in the UK and we will continue to do more as we work towards 100% of our packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable."
Cadbury selection box – £1
The Cadbury box is also just £1, a family favourite and often found wrapped under the Christmas tree.
Again, it appeared to be fairly large in size but the plastic tray inside was responsible for this. It has a bit more chocolate than the Maltesers box but only edged out of the bottom spot by a chocolate button.
The box includes a Fredo, Chomp, Fudge, Curly Wurly and a small bag of milk chocolate buttons.
For one of the biggest confectionary brands in the UK, the fact that this box was more plastic than chocolate is very disappointing.
Reese's selection box – £3
The Reese's selection box really stood out on the shelf, opting for a bright orange cardboard exterior and only a subtle nod to Christmas with a strange DJ Santa illustration.
The box contains a large clear plastic tray with four plastic wrapped packets of chocolate.
However, inside each packet was a smaller tray to keep the Reese's chocolate peanut cups in place – unlike the larger tray, these were made from white cardboard.
In total, the box includes eight full-size chocolate cups so I was content with the amount of product – the large plastic tray does seem somewhat futile in this packaging though.
Nestlé selection box – £3
Again, like the Reese's box this Nestlé selection is just £3.
The box is slightly larger and really markets itself for the festive season being named the 'Christmas Selection'.
It includes full-size versions of their best-sellers – Yorkie, KitKat, KitKat Chunky, Aero, Aero Mint and Fruit Pastilles (this was the only box we bought with a jelly sweet included).
The inside tray is made from cardboard which is great to see, the only plastic included is the wrappers for the individual chocolate bars.
Lindt selection box – £10
Next up is the most expensive box of them all – the Lindt Lindor box which was the largest on the shelf and cost £10.
There were two varieties of this box on sale but I opted for the classic all milk chocolate box – both look the same in terms of the cardboard exterior.
This box is definitely worth the money in terms of product, with two big bars of Lindt chocolate, two truffle bars and a big selection of the original luxury chocolate truffles.
The tray inside is cardboard and many of the wrappings are paper or foil. However, the two truffle bars and spherical truffles are individually wrapped in plastic which perhaps could've been changed or reduced to make this box a winner.
Galaxy selection box – £3
The best box on offer at Wilko in terms of reducing plastic was the Galaxy Christmas collection box.
Inside you receive four full-size chocolate bars and two sticks of the Galaxy Ripple, all for just £3.
The exterior box is cardboard but what makes this stand out is the removal of the inside tray entirely – it simply has a perforated edge to open the box.
The only plastic used is the individual chocolate wrappers, but it has to be said there is very little packaging in this box in comparison to the others.
Despite efforts from some brands to reduce plastic packaging, it is still a major problem with consumers having to foot the bill for more environmentally conscious packaging.
John McGall created the viral Facebook post on his business page 'I am Reusable' and it has since reached nearly 1.4 million people.
He said: "The selection box highlights just how much plastic we have on one item which can be less than £1. We can't keep using plastic, we need to look at different ways in which we can package items.
"The KitKat for example comes in paper and foil, so why aren't all the other chocolate bars going in paper and foil like they used to be?
"We need to get back to basics because now everything is just in plastic – companies are the ones who are causing this issue."
Liz O'Hanlon runs a plastic-free refilling centre, she believes that although some companies are trying to make the move away from plastic, it could just be a way of tapping into another market to make profit.
She said: "We have to be really careful as consumers to check the supply chain and make sure that the changes these companies are making are genuine.
"So for example, if some of the large organisations started offering refills, which I think would be brilliant – is it genuinely possible for them to be able to do that with a supply chain which is ethical and genuine?
"Are they actually transporting their products to supermarkets in shrink wrapped plastic, in plastic disposable containers that they just empty out to make us feel better as consumers?
"So I think we need companies to do things they need to do for the right reasons and not just because they feel that refilling things or making your own selection box is another way to sell more products."