Resource Use

How can you make your Christmas less wasteful?

It may be the season of giving and goodwill to all men, but the Christmas period also gives the gift of waste, and unless handled properly, this can lead to significant ill will to the environment.

Last year, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) tried to highlight the huge amount of packaging waste created over the Christmas period with a range of amazing facts illustrating how much card was used.

How can you make your Christmas less wasteful?
For example, the 290,000 tonnes of card packaging used during the festive season is enough to wrap Big Ben almost 260,000 times, and when laid out could create a cardboard motorway covering the return distance between London and Father Christmas’s Arctic base in Lapland 103 times.

Encouraging people to make sure this card ends up in their recycling rather than their residual bins, WRAP explained that if all the card packaging used at Christmas were recycled, enough energy would be saved to light 340 sets of Blackpool illuminations.

In Scotland, meanwhile, more than 95 million Christmas cards are expected to be sent this year – enough, according to Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), to fill over 13,000 wheelie bins. Furthermore, around 19,000 miles of wrapping paper will be used north of the border, enough to wrap the coast of mainland Scotland more than two and a half times.

Make use of your leftover food

Of course, as well as the waste that comes with presents, there’s also the best part of the day – the food. The generous lashings of meat, veg and all the trimmings are appetising, but something has to happen with all that’s left over when you can’t eat any more.

How can you make your Christmas less wasteful?The best thing to do with this food, of course, is to make the most of it with meals on Boxing Day and beyond. Last year, ZWS teamed up with celebrity chef Tony Singh to provide some ideas for creative leftover recipes and tips on how to make your festive food go further.

If you can’t find a use for all your leftover food, however, make sure it finds its way into a food waste collection. Food waste recycler ReFood estimates that by recycling the food we waste as a nation at Christmas, we could power a medium-sized house for 57 years.

Using figures established by Unilever, the company estimates that every Christmas around 1,315 tonnes of turkey will go to waste, enough to create 23.6 years of energy for the average house alone. Added to this is the 172 tonnes of sprouts, 848 tonnes of roast potatoes, 375 tonnes of mince pies and 72 tonnes of leftover Christmas pudding.

Philip Simpson, Commercial Director of ReFood, said: “Sprouts are often derided for their gas-producing qualities, but in this case, that could actually be a good thing. Christmas is a time for families coming together, and enjoyment, but over the years, it’s also become a time of waste. These statistics highlight the problem we have in the UK, around wasted food.

“Obviously, the first priority is to eliminate waste, and address the needs of food charities. But when that’s not possible, we need to have a more sustainable attitude to dealing with this waste problem.”

Don’t be afraid of secondhand shops

For those who like to leave Christmas shopping until the last few days before the big day, ZWS suggests hitting the charity shops to keep your festive footprint to a minimum.

According to research carried out by the organisation, 80 per cent of Scots would be happy to receive a secondhand gift as a present. The problem is that 65 per cent of those asked said that they aren’t sure that they would buy a secondhand gift for someone else.

London hosts pilot ‘re-fashion’ eventsThe ZWS-commissioned YouGov survey found that almost 70 per cent of Scots have purchased a secondhand item for themselves, stating that they appreciate being able to buy good-quality items at lower prices and like finding unique products, but, unsure how it would go down, only a quarter had ever given a similar present to someone else.

The most popular types of secondhand items purchased in Scotland, according to the survey, include books (72 per cent), clothes (50 per cent), furniture (44 per cent), electronics (31 per cent), fashion accessories (30 per cent), baby items (19 per cent) and shoes (19 per cent).

"People may worry that friends and family won’t be happy with a secondhand gift,” says Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, “but these new figures show the majority of people would actually welcome a pre-loved gift.”

In Scotland, the national Revolve standard is given to shops that sell quality secondhand goods, and this month two chains, Capability Scotland and Sense Scotland, have been awarded the status, taking the total number of stores with it to 80 across Scotland.

Gulland added: “This Christmas, we are urging people to think before they buy. Buying secondhand from a Revolve-certified store means you can bag a bargain and give something unique, help others by supporting good causes and be kinder to the planet by keeping items in use. It has never been easier to find a place to shop secondhand with confidence.”

Follow these tips

To try and provide inspiration for a waste-free Christmas, ZWS has come up with 10 tips to try:

  • Buy pre-loved – Visit secondhand shops to find unique gifts that are built to last.
  • Make memories – Go for an experience – like gig tickets, a fancy meal out, a hot air balloon trip or spa day – rather than material things for an unforgettable gift.
  • Add a personal touch – Tailor your wrapping paper by personality and give your gifts some flair. Wrap your fashionable friend’s gift using an old copy of Vogue, for example, or reuse old comics to wrap kids’ Christmas presents.
  • Make things last – Cut down on paper waste by sending e-cards or buying cards made from recycled paper.
  • Add value  – Give someone the gift that keeps on giving. Memberships or courses, such as sewing, upholstery or bike maintenance, give people the chance to develop a skill as well as indulging in a hobby or passion.
  • Pay it forward – Received a gift you don’t need but don’t want to ask for the receipt? Return it for an exchange, re-gift it if someone else would love it, sell it online or feel great and donate it to charity.
  • Combine and conquer – Have fun, save money and get a gift you actually want with a friends and family Secret Santa. Put names in a hat along with a hint of what you would like.
  • Make your own – Get creative and give someone a one of a kind gift. Are you a keen cook? Cakes, jams and chutneys can make useful and thoughtful presents, and cut down on food waste.
  • Shop smart – Plan your meals before you go food shopping. Writing a list makes sure you don’t overbuy saves you money and prevents food waste.
  • Be green – Opt for solar power outdoor lights where possible and remember to turn your Christmas lights off when you’re out or in bed.

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