It’s nearly the time of year when we coat our living rooms in plastic packaging and gift-wrap; as well as fell trees and send and receive Christmas cards we’ll read once before sticking in the bin. I admit that’s a rather ‘Grinch-ian’ summary of Christmas Day, but sadly there’s truth behind it.
Zero Waste Week’s website estimate 114,00 tonnes of plastic will not be recycled this Christmas; add to this, Defra calculated that during Christmas 2019, the UK consumed enough card packaging to cover Big Ben 260,000 times; it’s a disturbing image and one you might expect in a Black Mirror Christmas special.
I consider myself to be conscious about how much plastic I consume and try to make sure it gets recycled. But it bothers me how we as consumers are expected to recycle more, whilst large producers continue to use wasteful packaging. I plan to have a blog focused on eco-plastics and alternatives so I won’t digress on that topic. The bottom line is this: Plastic waste especially is very hard to avoid, but Christmas in general puts added strain on waste removal services. So here are a few ideas on how we can work to have fewer swollen bin bags out the front of the house in January. Let’s look at some of the Christmas culprits, and possible alternatives.
Christmas paper is notoriously hard to recycle but overcoming this is easy and could save you money. Brown wrapping paper is recyclable and compostable so that’s an obvious alternative. Even easier, find some old newspapers or magazines to wrap presents in. If you’re unsure whether your wrapping paper is recyclable, an easy test is to scrunch it up. If it stays scrunched, good job, it can be recycled. If it doesn’t, you’re going on Santa’s naughty list.
When it comes to Christmas cards, avoiding glittery designs; this will increase the likelihood that it will get recycled. Cards should clearly state whether they are widely recycled, but if you want to go a step further, check out one of the sites which offer E-Christmas cards instead of traditional posted cards. There is something special about being drip-fed Christmas cards over the festive period. Not sending a physical card to beloved relatives might be seen as a cop-out. So sending an Ecard instead seems like a reasonable negotiation.
My favourite part of Christmas is always the food and the drink. We aren’t here to point the finger and scold you against a bit of Christmas gluttony. But a little bit of self-reflection can’t do too much harm. When buying your mince pies, try avoiding those in plastic trays (well done Foxcombe Bakehouse who use 100 compostable packaging). If you’re tucking into a bird of choice, if possible, try and make sure it’s free ranged. True there will probably be a premium on purchasing free range but buying from smaller and local suppliers not only ensures better quality, but often more sustainable practices.
It’s hard to avoid plastic. As of this week we are happy to announce our own packaging is entirely plastic free, so look no further… However, if you do look elsewhere, no hard feelings, but try keep it in the back of your mind.
Of all the monolithic symbols of Christmas, the tree is surely the one we can’t imagine going without. I have fond memories of being hoisted up by Mum and Dad when it was my year to put the angel on top of the tree; or Jamie’s annual smashing of the ornate glass baubles which were a present from Salzburg. So, the tree is dear to me, but I’ve started to favour the Christmas ‘twig’ as a substitute. All you need is a large fallen branch, a stand, and your usual decorations and you have an equally charming feature for your house. And it saves cutting down a tree for the sake of a month’s enjoyment. Our Dad is yet to be persuaded, so hopefully we can convince him to rent a tree or plant one for reusing.
Anyway, lecturing about how to enjoy Christmas is not a satisfying exercise. Waste at Christmas is hard to avoid but reducing it may be easier than expected. Hopefully some of the steps above might give some inspiration.
William Price, Chief Blogger