Mimi Pilcher, our Waste Wise Kids ambassador, looks at practical ways you can reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle all those extra Christmas trimmings to help stop them ending up in landfill, or worse, in our oceans.
…and that means everything is a little ‘extra’ and don’t we just love it?! The problem is, our indulgences are having a huge impact on the environment. Christmas is the time of year for giving and helping others, so take a step back from the mince pies for just a second, and think, what can I do to help the environment and create less waste this festive season.
Unfortunately, a lot of the novelty Christmas items are used once and thrown away contributing to millions of tonnes of waste each year. The biggest culprits are packaging and plastic. It is estimated that 4.7 million tonnes of paper and cardboard and over 2.3 million tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown out, with only 45 per cent of plastic being recovered and recycled.* There will also be the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper thrown away, once the presents are open.*
A lot of this waste could be cut dramatically if we just made better, more informed choices.
Rethink and reduce
- That beautiful foil wrapping paper, with the glitter on can’t be recycled. If it’s got any sticky tape left on it, ribbons or bows, it often can’t be recycled. If it’s got gold and silver colouring, dye or non-paper additives, it’s a real nuisance for recycling centres. Recycle Now has a great video which simply shows to choose the wrapping paper that when scrunched, stays scrunched. This means it can be recycled as long as it doesn’t have anything sticking to it There are also lots of green alternatives to using gift wrap as well, such as reusable cloth bags, tissue paper, and brown paper that you can decorate yourself with red string, even old sheet music has a wonderful effect.
- Beware of cheap plastic stocking fillers that are bought for the novelty factor rather than the practicality of it being used. Choose an experience instead, such as entry tickets to an attraction or a beauty voucher. Another good gift to buy are board games. These are played year after year and then they can easily be donated for more people to enjoy. Buy ethical products and buy local where you can.
- Join the circular economy and have a look on Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace for the particular toy or gift you have in mind and buy second hand. Some items still have the tags on! You can also choose gifts that have been recycled.
- Is the age of the Christmas card over? Not quite, although many people are now sending a donation to charity or an e-card instead. It is nice to send and receive cards though, so if you do send Christmas cards, choose a recycled paper card that can be recycled again. For all cards you receive this year, cut out any nice designs from the cards and use them as gift tags next year.
- Christmas decorations are perfect for reuse. I’m sure your older relatives have decorations going back years and every Christmas they take their proud place on the mantel, as they have done so for the last 30 years or more. Decorations have such sentimental value as they bring back beautiful memories of Christmas’s past. If you have any old decorations, donate them to a local hospital or charity who would love a bit of extra sparkle!
- T’is the season to declutter! Before the big day, take a look around the house and evaluate what can I send to charity or gift to friends and family. Items such as toys, books, clothes, and household accessories that are all in good condition will be gratefully received by local nurseries, hospitals, and charity shops.
- Christmas is a great time to get creative! There are some fantastic ideas on Pinterest on how to recycle items into Christmas decorations, or unwanted gifts into something you would actually use.
- We love this old jumper into Christmas stockings idea! Maybe you could make one for your pets and put a treat in their on Christmas day?
- Here are some more Christmas decoration ideas.
- Local authority recycling centres are very well policed, and it is all categorised into segregated skips for example metal, glass, plastics and cardboard. They also have book and clothes banks. When you have had your big clear out, segregate and recycle what you can.
- Find out what you can and can’t recycle from your local authority as often different councils have different rules. Using the wrong bins for your recycling costs the council a lot of money so always check. You can recycle so much:
- Glass bottles, jars
- Aluminium fizzy drink cans,
- Mince pie foil, foil food trays and baking foil
- All plastic food packaging that has the recycle mark on it
- Cardboard and paper
Some common items that can’t be recycled include:
- Fairy lights can’t be recycled as they are electronic.
- Plastic plates, cutlery and other single use plastics such as straws unfortunately can’t be recycled, so these will end up in landfill and will take thousands of years to degrade. The key here is not to buy them in the first place.
- Tinsel can’t be recycled, so reuse it or donate it to a cause who needs more decorations.
- Segregate your wrapping paper into recycling and non-recycling by doing the scrunch test (as above).
If you have any ideas and tips, for creating less waste this Christmas, please share them with us so we can add them to our Facebook and Twitter pages.
From us all at Encore Environment and Waste Wise Kids, have a wonderfully Waste Wise Christmas!