Monday, 22 December 2014 12:32

The rubbish side of Christmas

Three million tonnes of Christmas related rubbish in Britain is likely to be produced this year – enough to cover an area twice the size of London, including 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, 12,000 tonnes of dead Christmas trees and 9,300 tonnes of sprouts.

christmas waste2There will be enough wrapping paper ripped to shreds on Christmas morning to circle the equator nine times. Whilst a degree of the various packaging and wrapping can be recycled – much of Christmas's beautifully presented packaging and frills will head for the landfill and pollute the environment. Things that are hard to recycle include glittery cards, dirty foil, ribbons, soiled napkins, parcel tape, plastic wrapping and plastic bags.

There's the packaging for 10 million turkeys and 25 million Christmas puddings to dispose of and cutting toys out of packaging has become an art form on 25 December – often responsible for delaying Christmas meals.

Friends of the Earth have set out some tips to encourage people to stay green-minded advising they buy artificial trees or potted trees that can be reusable, make food gifts and engage in craft making – for homemade gifts.

But it's not just the consumers that are accountable for the waste produced this Christmas, retailers and manufacturers have a hand to play – as the source of over-doing and under-thinking their packaging and presentation.

christmas waste copyThere are regulations set-up, intended to ensure packaging does not spiral out of control, like the 2003 Packaging Regulations Act – where retailers and manufacturers are told not to use excess packaging, so they only use the minimum required for safety and hygiene. Just how well enforced the rule is, is questionable.

That mound of packaging on your lounge floor on Christmas Day indicates that some manufacturers and shops aren't aware of it or are not bothered. Plastic – whether the 'action figure' wrapping or the infamous plastic bag, is one of the least environment-friendly substances you can dispose of and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose whilst potentially leaking contaminants into the environment.

"For retailers this Christmas period – it's important to consider recyclable or reusable materials at Point of Sale and for packaging," suggests Jon Marling, Director of The Paper Bag Company in Wiltshire.

"For instance, whilst attempts to phase out the use of plastic bags are in action, some retailers haven't considered offering an alternative. It's worth investigating materials used in everything from packaging of products to the bags shoppers use. There's enough choice that is competitively priced now when it comes to environment friendly materials that those responsible for buying in stocks of bags or packaging their products, should look at all the options."

With some councils in the UK saying that they will factor for more than the usual allowances for household recycling collection this Christmas period, there are some moves to manage the excesses it seems. For the outfall of Christmas however, it will take a lot more accountability from manufacturers, retailers and you and I before the mountains of rubbish are reduced at this festive time of the year.