The days of plastic wrappers for the chocolates and sweeties inside Easter eggs look numbered.

Announcing plans to eliminate the use of plastic packaging in 80% of its Easter eggs for 2009, Nestlé said the new Smarties and Milkybar Shaker eggs will contain loose chocolate drops again, as confectionery giants take ever-larger strides to reduce their environmental footprint. The most significant change was the use of recyclable card trays instead of plastic inserts, helping to cut the amount of packaging across Nestlé’s shell range by 30% compared with last year.

Rival Mars is also stripping back. It has reduced the weight of its plastic inserts by 35%, saving 69 tonnes of plastic compared with last year, it claimed. Cardboard cartons have also been made 42% lighter and packaging for all eggs other than a new premium Galaxy product will use recycled cardboard.

Nestlé is also launching a small filled Aero Bubbles egg, which will be supported with a £1.5m campaign, to take on Cadbury Creme Egg. And it will also introduce sweets inside After Eight and Aero Bubbles eggs for the first time.

Mars has developed three new products for spring 2009. A MaltEaster Bunny – a milk chocolate shell filled with a Malteser centre – aimed at 25 to 44-year-old women, will be supported with a £1m campaign. Last year’s Mars & Friends mini eggs bags have been rebranded as Maltesers & Friends to attract more females. And the company is launching a luxury boxed egg containing three Galaxy bars.