Despite Christmas being a time to celebrate, the UK, unfortunately, accumulates hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste over the festive season.1
In the lead-up to the big day, supermarkets begin stocking seasonal delicacies, shops begin filling with toys, and houses begin to put up their decorations. However, these products all produce plastic waste that is simply thrown away every year. Worryingly, this could sit in landfill for hundreds of years.
In the midst of the world’s climate emergency, it is important to try and reduce the amount of plastic packaging that ends up in landfill sites.
How Christmas contributes to the world’s climate emergency
Around 57.8 million people celebrate Christmas in the UK, making it the biggest seasonal event in the country.2 Amongst gifts, cards, decorations, food, and parties, Christmas waste is responsible for 15 times the amount of waste than any other celebration.
Food plays a huge part in Christmas celebrations across the world. Turkey is the most popular and traditional delicacy over the season, with UK consumers purchasing and eating over ten million turkeys each year. A typical Christmas will see Brits throw away over two million turkeys, along with five million Christmas puddings, 17 million Brussels sprouts, and 74 million mince pies.2
Turkey’s huge popularity over Christmas means that over 3,000 tonnes of packaging is used, with plastic waste generated from its packaging equalling the weight of 30 blue whales.
Unwanted gifts are also a huge contributor to plastic waste. Approximately 21 million people received a gift they didn’t want last Christmas, with the majority of these being thrown away rather than regifted, resold, or given to charity.
Plastic waste is the biggest contributor to pollution and the build-up of waste in landfill over Christmas. Alarmingly, it is estimated that 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be neglected, thrown away, and not recycled this year. Furthermore, the average UK household throws away three black bin bags worth of packaging.
As well as sitting in landfill, this waste can pollute our oceans and water supplies, potentially having negative effects on wildlife and ecosystems, as well as adverse health effects. Therefore, it is important to look at ways we can contribute to reducing plastic waste over the festive season.
How can households limit the amount of plastic they accumulate?
One way that households can limit their plastic use is through the wrapping paper they use. Most festive wrapping paper contains plastic, making it impossible to recycle and ending up in the bin. Households become overwhelmed with the amount of wrapping paper they use, with enough thrown away in the UK alone to stretch as far as the Moon.
A sustainable wrapping option includes brown paper and string, which can be safely recycled to reduce plastic waste. Furthermore, old fabric can be used for a unique take on wrapping presents. For paper that is unrecyclable, it can be cut up and saved for household purposes.
Another option is to opt for plastic-free gifts. Many presents, mainly children’s toys, are made of and are stored in plastic packaging. Buying second-hand toys without the original packaging is a good option to limit plastic use. This also saves doing Christmas shopping with unsustainable big businesses, which limit our sustainability and increase our carbon footprint.
Reusing old Christmas decorations and limiting the use of plastic decorations can also help to limit the plastic waste we accumulate. Crackers are a huge contributor to pollution because they are not recyclable and many of the toys inside are made from plastic. To limit the use of plastic in Christmas crackers, look out for FSC-certified products – this means that any Christmas decorations with this label support sustainable forestry.
Avoiding plastic waste over Christmas can be difficult; however, these methods and many more can help households to live more sustainably.
A survey conducted by Go Ultra Low showed that 72% of UK participants were keen to reduce their plastic waste this coming Christmas.1 Unsurprisingly, the majority of those concerned were either millennials or Gen Z. Perhaps future generations can efficiently reduce their plastic waste use and carbon footprint.