Big change to Mars, Snickers and Milky Way bars divides opinion

An upgrade to some of Australia's most popular snacks is drawing both praise and scepticism.

Snack food giant Mars Wrigley has announced that its iconic Mars, Snickers and Milky Way chocolate bars will be going plastic-free in Australia, however experts are split over the environmental impact of the move.

Mars and Snickers are the first of the three chocolates to be wrapped in recyclable paper-based packaging, soon to be followed by the humble Milky Way.

Mars Wrigley says Aussies will be the first in the world to try the new wrappers, and claimed their planned transition to paper-based wrapping by 2025 will remove 360 tonnes of plastic from their range.

Old and new packaging of Mars, Snickers and Milky Way bars
Out with the old, in with the new. The paper-based packaging, pictured on the right, has already rolled out to Coles supermarkets around Australia. Source: Mars Wrigley

Coles welcomes change

Brooke Donnelly, General Manager of Sustainability at Coles, welcomed Mars Wrigley's introduction of the new packaging, saying she believes further business innovation and collaboration are needed to drive forward sustainable solutions for consumers. "It's encouraging to see Australian manufacturers take steps towards providing sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging," she said.

"In order to drive further innovation and achieve mutual sustainability goals, it's important for organisations to collaborate and work together. With businesses increasingly measured on their impact on society and the environment, sustainable innovation can be a key driver of both societal and commercial success."

Corporate greenwashing?

However, Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director for The Changing Markets Foundation, noted with some scepticism that this isn't Mars Wrigley's first foray into supposedly eco-conscious packaging and that it would be much better if they were using recycled paper.

"Although this is a step in the right direction, we have previously seen greenwashing attempts by Mars, where they failed to explain to their customers that there is still plastic hidden in their paper packaging," Ms Urbancic told Yahoo News Australia.

"In addition to this, paper still requires significant virgin resources, and we would like to see Mars moving to second generation materials, such as recycled paper or agricultural residues for their single-use packaging, while at the same time investing into reuse models, where packaging is eliminated."

Scientist backs Mars move

On the other hand, Dr Paul Harvey, environmental scientist and author of The Plasticology Project, is more upbeat about the change. "I actually really love that Mars have moved to paper packaging," Dr Harvey told Yahoo. "It is long overdue, but great to see it finally arriving. Finally a company appears to be listening to consumers and the global market demand for less plastic.

Kobie Dee with Mars bar
Aussie hip hop artist Kobie Dee has partnered with Mars to promote the new paper-based packaging. Source: Supplied

"I hope that this packaging is long-term and set to stay. As Australia moves closer to the National Packaging Targets in 2025, consumers should expect to see more of this type of packaging on the shelves and that is a great thing," Dr Harvey continued. "If chocolate can be packaged in paper, why not everything else? Maybe by the end of the decade the supermarket shelves will be plastic packaging free.

A win for waste management

"Paper-based tells me that there will be other additives in the packaging, but that is normal," Dr Harvey explained. "The standout here is that the package can be recycled, and received by municipal recycling facilities. Unlike soft plastics, the infrastructure to process paper material and the demand for the recycled product is already in place, which is another win for the already under pressure waste management industry."

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