Christmastime is a happy period of giving and receiving gifts, over-indulging on food, and treating yourself to the luxuries that you’ve been missing all year. But amongst the joy of yuletide festivities, there is one gift that keeps on giving that we would rather do without—waste.
Yes, waste is monumental at Christmas. Between gift-wrap and unfinished dinners, waste piles up in our rubbish bins and flows unceremoniously to the landfill by the end of the holiday. It’s a problem that many Brits are all too aware of but feel powerless to contend with as the festive period approaches. However, with the motivation for change amongst the humbug of 2020, perhaps the UK can lead the way to a sustainable Christmas through the storm of jubilant junk.
Here we look at how you can prepare yourself for rubbish this Christmas, to avoid your holiday being just that.
A present problem
While some people try to reuse wrapping paper, research shows that Brits still go through 227,000 miles of gift wrap every year. That’s enough to go around the moon more than 33 times. Reusing efforts seem to provide little relief for landfill. Around 83km² of this printed paper will be thrown into the bin. This is enough to wrap Northampton—though this is not a recommendation.
A surprise present is always best covered up and with a big reveal. But our waste responsibilities should be a priority, even at this time of year. However, there are a few alternatives to gift wrap that can help.
Some gifts don’t need to be surprising. Gift-givers and receivers will still experience the joy of getting a great gift. Why not agree with friends and family that you won’t be using gift wrap this year? For children, laying bare presents across the living room and under the tree can make an overwhelming and exciting experience. After all, Santa lives at the North Pole. Children will understand why he wants to use less paper and prevent climate change.
Rewrapping the problem
Reusing your gift wrapping is one of the best ways to cut down on waste. Just make sure that you carefully unwrap your presents rather than ripping them apart. After all, storing it for a year in the bottom of the closet isn’t too much of a burden. Try using generic wrapping paper as opposed to Christmas-themed paper, as this can be used at any time of year. Alternatively, using a gift box can also help prevent waste, as they are more likely to be kept and reused for years to come.
Food for thought
Food is one of the biggest waste contributors on the big day. It’s estimated that over the Christmas holidays, 74 million mince pies and 4.2 million plates of turkey and trimmings get thrown away. The festive spread is a tradition in many households, but managing your expectation is more important. Not only can cutting back on food save waste at Christmas, but it can save money.
There will always be waste from your Christmas dinner. For many people, the thought of turkey and glazed ham allows their eyes to become bigger than their stomach. However, people must also see the truth of food waste. Food and drink make up 26 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Preventing this waste from going to landfill is essential.
Fortunately, while there are many meat components to Christmas dinner, most menu items are made from vegetables. Uncooked vegetables and peelings can be composted in a normal composter. But cooked vegetables should be used in a hot composter or wormery. Christmas dinner can retain a lot of liquid, like gravy and other sauces. Compounding your food waste with paper will help the composting process.
Sometimes, the truth is unfortunate. And the fact that sometimes unwanted gifts are thrown out is something we might turn a blind eye to. According to one survey, 33 per cent of Brits plan to clear space in their house purely for new presents. Further to this, two-thirds of respondents said that they expect to receive an unwanted gift during the period of giving.
In fact, it’s estimated that Brits receive 81 million unwanted gifts every year. One in 10 is expected to go to landfill. To avoid this, hiring rubbish clearance businesses can ensure that you waste is disposed of sustainably and responsibly.
The solution is simple, and one that is promoted by many money-saving experts. Agree with friends to not send unnecessary gifts this year. In doing so, you can save yourself money and prevent further waste going to landfill.
Even then, with gifts that are wanted, plastic packaging creates 114,000 tonnes worth of unrecycled waste at Christmas. While you are not directly responsible for creating this waste, you must dispose of the packaging responsibly.
Ensure that your waste is recycled properly, and then take steps to prevent this from happening next year. Speaking to the Wildlife and Countryside Organisation, Louise Edge, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace, makes recommendations on how to help: “[If] plastic waste isn’t what you asked for, write a letter to Santa letting him know. And don’t forget to send a copy to Coca Cola, your local supermarket and your MP.”
Recycling at home is made easier by having the right tools at your disposal. You must appreciate how you will contribute to the growing waste problem, and find ways to tackle this. Buy less or understand where your waste is going. Disposal businesses, composting, and recycling are all responsible ways to ensure that your Christmas rubbish does not make a jolly big mess.