Plan for a less wasteful Christmas
When the frenzy of Christmas is over, many of us are dismayed by the amount of waste left behind by gift packaging, wrapping and decorations.
The start of Autumn is a great time to give some thought to how you can reduce the amount of your Christmas waste – and make sure that as much as possible can be recycled.
(Unless you are one of those super-organised people who bought this year’s gifts and cards in last year’s January sales and wrote and wrapped them over the summer, in which case please remember this blog when you go shopping on January 1, 2020!)
Good things come in recyclable packaging
To begin with, we should be looking at how potential gifts are packaged and choosing those that have recyclable packaging if we can. Polystyrene inserts have to be removed and put in general waste.
A staggering 300,000 tonnes of card is used in UK households during the festive season, but much of that can be recycled; cardboard should be flattened and put in the recycling bin (though not if it’s dirty or covered with food or paint).
The joy of giving
We all like to show our appreciation of friends and relatives by finding them the perfect gift – but remember that presents don’t have to be ‘things’. You can buy vouchers for all kinds of ready-made experiences, from gin tasting to theatre tickets, zip wires, bungee jumping or more sedate occupations such as researching a family tree. You could even put together your own special ‘experience package’.
With a bit of imagination, you can create a gift that will be valued for the thought that has gone into it as well as the enjoyment it brings – and it won’t end up gathering dust.
Scrunch it and see
When it comes to wrapping, steer clear of foil gift wrap and anything with added glitter. The ‘scrunch test’ will tell you if you can recycle it: crumple a piece of wrapping paper in your hand – if it unfolds when you open your hand, it can’t be recycled. Paper that stays scrunched up in a ball is safe to put in the recycling.
A lot of used wrapping paper becomes unfit for recycling because it has sticky tape all over it. Try securing your gifts with ribbon or coloured string instead. You can make elegant minimalist gift wrap from brown parcel paper or newspaper, tied with string or ribbon, adding fragrant natural decorations such as pine cones and acorns, sprigs of evergreen or cinnamon sticks.
The ‘no glitter’ rule applies to greetings cards and Advent calendars, too. When you recycle them, tear off the portions with glitter, remove ribbon, badges and other embellishments and take out batteries from musical cards – these should be recycled separately.
Deck your hall with boughs of holly
Choose decorations wisely and keep them to use again. Tinsel plays its part in making your house sparkle at this time of year – but as it can’t be recycled, try to limit how much you buy and keep what you have to use year on year.
Many people treasure their tree decoration collections, adding to them with souvenirs from holidays or items that commemorate family events such as weddings or the birth of a child. When buying baubles, it’s useful to bear in mind that neither glass nor plastic baubles can be recycled.
It’s also preferable to keep fairy lights and reuse them each year too, but when they are at the end of their lives, they can be recycled at the household waste recycling centre.
Natural decorations such as ivy, fir cones, mistletoe and holly look festive and can be composted if they are not covered excessively with glitter – though artificial decorations like ribbons and plastic flowers will need to be removed. After Christmas, greenery can be separated from the base and added to your garden/green waste collection or dropped at your local household waste recycling centre.
Oh, Christmas Tree!
If you have a real Christmas tree, that should also be recycled and shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks or woodland areas.
Local authorities often arrange drop-off points or special collections of 'real' trees in early January and advertise the dates this will take place with any other changes to collections over the Christmas period.
You can find out details of what your local authority collects and their contact details, by entering your postcode into our Recycling Locator tool.
Artificial trees need to be used for up to 9 years in order to have less impact than natural alternatives, depending on how they are disposed of. However local charity shops may accept them for resale if they are in good condition.
Remember the batteries
Since 2010, shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year have had to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store, meaning there are now lots more places where you can dispose of your used batteries – or you can take them to your local recycling centre. Many local authorities also collect batteries as part of their kerbside collections. Check out if you can recycle batteries at home or find your nearest battery recycling locations.