The countdown to Christmas is officially on. Everyone is rushing to the shops to buy presents, and putting up trees and other decorations. However, there is a darker side to Christmas. Being the period of over-indulgence, a gargantuan amount of waste is created per household nationwide; In fact, an alarming 30% more rubbish is produced at Christmas time, which has negative impacts on the environment. However, this wastage is not always necessary. Here, we provide some ways you can cut down on your Christmas waste.
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Wrapping & Packaging
A large part of Christmas is about gift giving and receiving. Companies use this to their advantage, and our televisions and computers are plagued with Christmas gift deal adverts, with days like Black Friday becoming popular and receiving more publicity every year.
YouGov found that families will spend a whopping £596 on presents alone. Whether you consider this a destruction of values or all part of the festive cheer, it certainly does create a lot of waste from all the wrapping paper and the vast amount of plastic and cardboard packaging used, with 30,000 tonnes of card packaging being used at Christmas (Recycle Now).
The long tradition of wrapping presents prevails, and the amount of wrapping paper left over is enough to wrap around the equator nine times, as found by Recycle for Wales.
How to recycle your wrapping
It’s firstly important to check whether your wrapping paper can be recycled. Some is paper based, which is fine to recycle, yet others have a plastic or metallic coated finish, which unfortunately cannot be recycled. If you are green-fingered and concerned for the environment and waste, then luckily you can purchase recyclable paper.
If you do have unrecyclable wrapping, do not worry, there are other ways you can re-use your paper. For some gifts where a lot of wrapping is used, providing that you are cautious when opening it, can be kept and reused. If you are creative in any way, funky coloured wrapping paper can be used to wrap notebooks in, line bookshelves with, made into paper chains or other decorations to hang up.
The Christmas tree is the centrepiece of a living room at Christmas. Decorating a Christmas tree to be displayed at home dates back to 16th century Germany and Livonia (Estonia and Latvia) and possibly even before then.
It gained widespread popularity in the 19th century. The British Tree Growers Association found that their members sell 8 million real trees per year. However, research has found only 1 in 5 have a real tree; owing to popularity of convenient fake trees which can be used year after year, and save families money. Environmentally however, a fake tree would have to be used at least 10 years to keep its environmental impact less than that of a real tree, due to its large carbon footprint being made of plastic (the Carbon trust).
For us that prefer the real McCoy, many don’t know what to do with the tree after Christmas and it’s not uncommon to see trees dumped in roads, streets and outside houses after Christmas. 6 million Christmas trees are discarded after Christmas! (Tameside Metropolitan borough).
For those who have the garden space to do it, consider getting a potted tree that you can plant and pot after Christmas and dig out when Christmas comes round. This saves money, and is much greener method. If you do not have a potted tree, your leftover tree can be put in a compost heap and left to slowly biodegrade, chopped up and taken to a woodland, where it will make a nice home for many critters and small mammals. Alternatively, you can arrange for the local council to pick it up.
Food & drink
The Christmas meal is a pinnacle of the day; the turkey is the centrepiece, served with roast all the trimmings. Christmas is also a time families get together, so food can be cooked for a large number of people at a time. It’s no wonder that food gets leftover and wasted at Christmas.
Approximately 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas (edie.net; Unilever). It’s not just the food which gets wasted, from sherry to champagne to jars of cranberry sauce, 13,350 tonnes of glass are thrown out in the UK after Christmas (Recycle for Wales). Recycling all of them could save 4,200 tonnes of CO2 equivalent being produced.
However, there is really no reason to throw out all this leftover food.
Here are some recipes to use up your Christmas turkey:
And your leftover veggies…
Research has found that in 2015, 1.5 billion cards were sold, and on average, individuals send an average of 19 cards each (Royal Mail). This leaves families with many cards to take down and dispose of in January.
The sentimental individuals among us probably store their cards in a box for keep safe. But the majority will throw away most of our cards. When getting rid of these, they should be recycled as normal. Up to 1 billion cards could end up in the bin (Tameside met borough), rather than recycled.
Christmas card recycling bins can also be found inside Sainsbury’s stores across the country throughout January.
For creative types; cards can be made into bookmarks, interesting collages for picture frames, scrapbooks, made into drinks coasters, or turned into new Christmas cards!
It has become clear that although waste over the Christmas period waste is inevitable, however, a lot of it could be avoided, through recycling and reuse. Every little really does help; so by following some of the tips on this blog for a more green-fingered environmentally friendly Christmas.
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