Christmas! A time of goodwill and celebration, often accompanied by seasonal increases in eating, drinking and spending. If all goes well this combination should result in a lot of fun, but unfortunately it will also result in an estimated 3 million tonnes of waste. But you can have the best of both worlds. With a bit of thought you can limit the impact you have on the environment this Christmas and still have a great time.
Overflowing dustbins and extra bags of rubbish are a common sight in the streets after Christmas. We all create more waste over the holiday period.
Royal Mail delivers around 150 million cards and packets during the pre-Christmas period. It is estimated that up to 1 billion Christmas cards (17 for every man, woman and child) could end up in bins across the UK.
Seven and a half million Christmas trees were bought in 2001. Some councils reported their Christmas tree recycling activities for early 2001 to EnCams. The total number of Christmas trees reported to be recycled stands at nearly 1,200,000.
It is estimated that over Christmas as much as 83 square km of wrapping paper will end up in UK rubbish bins, enough to cover an area larger than Guernsey.
We could use an extra 750 million bottles and glass containers and 500 million drinks cans and about 20% to 30% more glass and cans are collected each year over the Christmas period.
Reducing waste at Christmas
Recycling is important as it reduces the amount of rubbish that needs to be disposed of, but recycling still involves the use of transport and energy. A better solution is to reduce the amount of waste you produce in the first place.
There are many ways in which you can do this at Christmas time as well as all year round. You may not be able to do all of these things, but by doing just a few you are helping to reduce the amount of waste London has to deal with.
- Send your friends and family an e-card this Christmas and help reduce the number of cards that are sent every year
- Buy your loved ones an 'experience present' such as theatre tickets, flying lessons or a trip to the cinema. They are very personal gifts and don't come surrounded in packaging.
- If you buy electrical goods as presents, look for items that run off the mains and don't require batteries. If you have to buy batteries make sure that they are rechargeable
- Use string to tie up your parcels, or unwrap them carefully so that the paper can be used again next year
- When buying gifts, try to avoid items that are excessively packaged. Around 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are thrown away in the UK over Christmas
- Say 'No' to unnecessary carrier bags when you are Christmas shopping.
- If ordering extra milk this Christmas use your local milkman who will deliver milk in returnable glass bottles
- Buy large bottles of drink rather than lots of small ones to save on packaging
- If somebody gives you a present that you don't really want or your children receive a toy that is soon discarded, pass it on to your local hospital, play centre or charity shop
- When buying the ingredients for your Christmas dinner, try to buy loose vegetables instead of those heavily packaged
- Don't forget to compost all your vegetable peelings.
Reuse at Christmas
- Choose decorations which can be reused, rather than flimsy ones which will be used once and thrown away. You can also have fun making decorations from scrap materials.
- Cut down on what you buy. Gift tags can be made from old greetings cards. Any kind of unusual paper can be used to wrap gifts.
- Save envelopes and reuse them with reuse labels, available from many charity catalogues and shops.
- Buy recycled wrapping paper and use string, ribbon or wool for wrapping gifts, rather than using sticky tape. The string and paper can then be reused.
- You can often advertise unwanted articles free in local papers or papers such as Loot. Or why not put a notice in your local newsagent window.
- If you have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews they can reuse all sort of materials in their school activities e.g. centres of loo rolls, cardboard boxes, egg boxes and plastic bottles
- Use rechargable batteries
Recycling at Christmas
The main sources of extra rubbish at Christmas are packaging and cards, glass bottles, drinks cans and Christmas trees, all of which can be recycled.
Check your Christmas recycling and refuse collection services
The Woodland Trust has announced that people will be able to recycle their Christmas cards at all WH Smith high street stores and all major Tesco stores across the UK, following Christmas 2004. The scheme, with support from waste management company Cleanaway, is being launched on the 5th January 2004, although bins will be present throughout January until 1st February. Last years campaign ensured the recycling of 40 million Christmas cards (the equivalent 800 tonnes!) and reached an audience of more than 40 million people.
- If you have a favourite charity, check to see if their local charity shop is collecting old Christmas cards and stamps. Stamps can also be handed in to your local Oxfam shop
- Contact your local authority to check if it has a scheme for chipping and recycling trees to produce mulch/soil improver.
- When buying gifts, try to avoid items that are excessively packaged.
- Buy large bottles of drink rather than lots of small ones to save on packaging and reduce the number of trips you need to make to the recycling bank over Christmas.
- It is estimated that we could use an extra 750 million bottles and glass containers over Christmas. What better way to relieve seasonal stress than smashing your bottles into the bottle bank.
- More than 80,000 tonnes of old clothes are thrown away over Christmas. If you get a whole new wardrobe, donate your unwanted clothes to charity shops or place them in a textile bank.
- When buying the ingredients for your Christmas dinner, make sure you buy 'nude' vegetables. It'll help cut down on the amount of wrapping and packaging you have to throw away or take to be recycled.
SNUB - Say No to Unwanted Bags! Always reuse your plastic bags, or better still use a reusable shopping bag.
Buy Recycled at Christmas
Research shows that consumers would buy more sustainable goods but don't because they are difficult to find.
Here are a few sites to make that just a bit easier
UK Directory of Recycled Products
www.greenglass.co.uk - bottles reclaimed!
ReelFurniture - Eco friendly wooden furniture
kwytzakraft.com - Recycled chopstick art
Ecomania - The online green shop
LondonRemade.com - Product focus
Buying recycled assists to reduce waste needing to be landfilled or incinerated, conserves resources and energy.
By buying recycled you close the recycling loop.
See our Christmas cards made from recycled circuit boards