Rubbish Christmas?

Over the festive period, the average bin will fill up quicker than a certain someone's sleigh, meanwhile, most waste collection services are temporarily suspended creating a yuletide backlog at both work and home. This equates to hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste that are destined to sit in landfill for many Christmases to come. Of course celebrating the festive season should absolutely be done to the full but that doesn't have to mean such an overflowing rubbish bin come January 1st.

Card giving is such an integral part of our festive celebrations but the environmental impact is sadly less favourable. Last year the UK sent 900m Christmas cards* which is the same as receiving 21 cards every minute of every hour of every day for your entire life. Some local authorities won’t accept Christmas cards in home recycling schemes because designs that feature dyed paper, glitter, metallic or plastic components - including laminates - will be unsuitable for recycling unless they are removed first. Incidentally, the same principles apply to packaging - even smears of food can contaminate the waste stream - and is the reason we developed home compostable ranges so that the products can be disposed of ecologically. So with this in mind, Christmas cards really do need to stay meta (card only) to keep them from landfill - and preferably be made from recycled paper stock too. Alternatively, you may also want to upcycle last year’s Christmas cards into gift tags or home-made Christmas decorations, or take cards to one of the many in-store high street collection points that recycle used cards for charity.

Wrapping paper is a similar deal and even the purest of papers tend to be riddled with sticky tape which makes them un-recyclable. This is especially worrying when the government tells us our average Christmas gift wrap-athon would go ‘half the world away’ to the moon - and then back again - if you laid all the paper end to end**. You’d think wafer thin sheets would help as it amounts to less actual paper but this is even more damaging as the individual fibres within the gift wrap are so fine, they’re simply not strong enough for reuse. 

Gift bags 'present' a fine wrapping solution as an empty gift bag is good to go even if it’s been used several times before, as well as reusing wrapping paper wherever possible. Sealing presents with paper-based stickers (or labels - our Enjoy, Holly and Gift Tag labels are suitably festive) will also save time as well as the environment, and while ribbons and string can be fiddlier, they offer an old school finish. If you want to go down the fabric route WragWrap offers lots of colourful, premium finish solutions too.

From paper-based products to the trees themselves, 8 million of them which soon becomes 160,000 tonnes of waste so always check your suppliers use sustainably sourced materials - FSC or PEFC certified. Most local authorities now provide one off tree collection services whereby the plant is taken away and turned into compost. However, more and more organisation are emerging offering tree rental services so you can hire-in a fir for the festivities which is then taken away and replanted come New Year. This not only reduces waste, it helps safeguard ancient woodlands while reducing carbon emissions too.       

Next up is food waste. In 2014  an estimated 4.2 million Christmas dinners were consigned to the bin*** – that’s enough to feed the whole of Glasgow, County Durham, Leeds, Birmingham, Northampton, Stratford-on-Avon, Cornwall AND Cardiff combined. If you work in a commercial catering environment, you know the deal and will have all sorts of ingenious measures in place from meal planning and stock rotation to composting. For any non- commercial cooks who've ever despaired at the sight of their beautiful home cooked meal sliding into a black bag, all we can say is despair not. There are now hundreds of recipes available online for leftovers, while unopened tinned and dried goods can be taken to food banks to help feed those most in need. We’d also recommend taking note from the cooking pros and planning meals in advance so you’re only ever buying what you need and check out LoveFoodHateWaste for further advice, tips, recipes and more to help.  

Of course Christmas waste really can be anything so make use of Recycle Now’s excellent recycling locater for trickier items. And if you’re planning to hit the January sales, why not clear some space in your wardrobe and donate old items to the charity of your choice. Don’t forget your e-waste either as laptops, mobile phones, tablets and electronic games all contain valuable materials such as gold, of which supplies are finite. Once again check the recycling locater for details of sites that accept e-waste in your area and put your bin on its New Year diet now. 

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