Once all the cards are opened, gifts unwrapped and food and drink consumed, Christmas can leave us with a lot of waste that should be re-used and recycled. Unfortunately many of these products are thrown into the bin, destined to end up in landfill.
Defra’s UK statistics on waste, last updated in October 2018, indicate that 15.7 million tonnes of municipal waste was sent to landfill in 2016. This includes materials including food waste, green waste, cardboard and paper that will decompose within a landfill to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Here are eight tips for improving recycling at work and in the home:
- Sending cards online can reduce paper waste. Many businesses let colleagues and clients know they are making a charitable donation instead of sending cards.
- Avoid glittery or metallic, foil based wrapping paper and cards which can be difficult to recycle. If in doubt, test it out with the ‘scrunch test’ – if you literally scrunch the paper in your hand and it stays in a ball, it can be put into the recycling. Try to wrap presents in material that can be recycled, such as plain brown paper or even recycled newspaper! Remove glitter from cards before recycling.
- If wrapping isn’t too torn, it may be able to be saved and re-used for next Christmas. You might even heed the advice of ‘Money Saving Expert’ Martin Lewis and avoid buying unnecessary presents. This not only stops your spending getting out of control, but helps reduce unnecessary packaging.
- It’s very tempting to buy new decorations every year, but re-using or making your own can help use up and save materials from around the home.
- Break down cardboard boxes to create space and make sure they end up in the recycling
- Love Food Hate Waste found that one third of us think that we are likely to waste more food at Christmas than at any other time of year. Freeze leftover food and follow their tips for making the most of your festive food.
- If you’re getting new electrical items think about what you will you be doing with the items you are replacing. There are many charities who will take your unwanted items as long as they are in good working order and meet the fire safety regulations.
- If you have a real Christmas tree, the most environmentally conscious way to dispose of it after Christmas is to compost it. If you cannot compost it yourself, your council can probably help.
Contrary to popular belief, plastics have a very resource-efficient profile. Responsibly produced plastic packaging brings value and efficiencies to the supply chain. It weighs less than alternatives like paper, cardboard, glass and metal, and it also extends shelf life, minimising food waste for example.
When choosing products that are packaged in plastic materials, choose products that are clearly labelled as recyclable and opt for plastics that are created from recycled material. A clear distinction between what is and isn’t ‘single use’ plastic will also help people make informed decisions. The real issue is not with plastics themselves, but with recycling rates, end-user behaviour, and product design.
In order to improve recycling rates, the process must be made as easy as possible for everyone. Plastics aid the recycling process, polythene bags and boxes for example, facilitate the collection of dry recyclables whilst the use of plastic liners (traditional or compostable) in food caddies and bins are proven to increase recycling tonnages through improved participation rates.
Christmas is the season when, if we’re not careful, it’s easy to generate extra waste that could end up in landfill. This time of year it is doubly important that we recycle as much as we can and now is the time to make sure you have enough containers, liners, sacks and bags to be able to hold all that extra material for recycling.
Finally, tell your friends and family! If you’re reading this, it’s very likely you are already very familiar with the waste hierarchy, what can and cannot be separated for recycling, and already engaged with collection systems at work and home. We can all do our bit to spread the word and share the sustainability message this Christmas!