The amount of waste generated by Christmas is shocking: food, unused gifts, packaging. In the UK alone, we create 30% more waste than usual over the festive period! It’s not surprising when you take a moment to consider the excesses we indulge in at this time of year – we’re in the habit of cooking far too much, because waste seems preferable to running out of turkey, or not having that extra slice of Christmas pudding. But the fallout is shocking. Do you know the true cost of Christmas for our wider world? Discover some of the wasteful habits we have in the UK, and how the wider issues extend far beyond Christmas.
The real cost of Christmas: waste
The amount of waste generated by individual households at Christmas all adds up. It’s thought that we waste around 4.2 million Christmas dinners in total in the UK! That’s equivalent to 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding, 17.2 million brussel sprouts, 11.9 million carrots, and 11.3 million roast potatoes! Hosts are thought to spend an average of £112 each on food alone… but sadly, our wasteful habits mean our planet pays the biggest price.
And it’s not just food, of course. There are two other staples of Christmas that are terrible for the planet: trees and presents. Around 8 million natural Christmas trees are used each year in the UK, and an estimated 7 million of these are flytipped rather than recycled. Then there is the estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper which usually ends up in the bin each year in the UK.
Unwanted gifts and Boxing Day sales!
The trouble with Christmas from a retail perspective is that it’s challenging to meet demand. Businesses don’t want to run out of festive fare and gifts, as this could compromise their profits. Sadly, this leads to excess waste every year, and the problem won’t be going away unless demand for goods changes. But the real waste is the gifts that seem such a great idea for the short festive season and which get discarded immediately afterwards. Then there are the much awaited sales – more opportunities to buy unnecessary goods.
Online shopping is a huge contributor to the issue of excess buying. Many retailers simply don’t have the infrastructure and resources to deal with all the returns from customers who buy online, especially during the festive season where there’s an even greater volume. Sadly, this can mean it’s simpler for them to discard products that are in perfectly resaleable condition. It’s estimated that around 5 billion pounds of waste is generated through returns each year! Even if they don’t end up in landfill, think about the consequences of them being shipped around the country multiple times.
Case in point: consider Amazon. They have recently made it into the news due to startling revelations about their handling of goods, and what constitutes waste for them. It’s been reported that Amazon are routinely disposing of unsold or returned goods in landfill, simply to cut costs. A French report was published highlighting these practices, and it’s believed the same happens in the UK too. During investigations by an undercover Mail on Sunday reporter, a manager talking about unsold goods revealed that ‘some are returned but some are also destroyed’. Goods that were seen heading for incineration in France included nappies, kitchen equipment, and flat-screen TVs. Worryingly, this doesn’t just happen at Christmas – the issue runs far deeper. The call for cheap, convenient goods means retailers try to meet this demand and far too much ends up going to waste.
We have the power to make a difference: ways to reduce waste
As consumers, the power is in our hands. Retailers only sell in the way they do because we buy from them. Here are some ways you can become a more conscious consumer and help rebalance the power:
Go waste free with food and household goods. An increasing number of shops now sell goods without any packaging, or offer refills, so there’s no need to repurchase bottles and containers.
Don’t overbuy. Plan ahead and work out how much food you will actually need. You’ll save yourself some money, too.
Find creative ways to use leftovers. Ok, it’s difficult not to overbuy, especially when you’re responsible for feeding a large, hungry family. Have you thought about using up your leftovers in different ways? Why not try out some of these delicious recipes?
Recycle gifts, wrapping and cards. Check the labels before you buy and look for inventive ways to recycle and reuse. Better still, wrap gifts in reusable materials.
Invest in some recyclable tape. And if you have wrapped your presents with recyclable wrapping paper, make sure you tell the recipients their giftwrap can be recycled!
Support GreenSeas Trust! We’re working hard to reduce waste in our oceans so we can save our seas and contribute to a happier, healthier planet. Why not join us in our fight?
Let’s raise a toast to a less wasteful 2020!
The new year is always a time for change. There’s nothing quite like a fresh start in January to take some time to work out how you could lead a life that’s better for you, better for marine life and better for the planet.
If you’re thinking about setting a New Year’s resolution for 2020, why not use yours to change the world, help the planet and save the seas? Follow the advice given here, and think about some new year’s resolutions of your own – things that matter to you, that will help you live a greener, more wholesome life. And the added bonus is, you’ll be helping to save our seas and our planet.
The trouble with new year’s resolutions is that they’re notoriously difficult to stick to. People often give in simply because the resolutions they have chosen are too challenging and it’s easier to give in. Remember to be kind to yourself. A resolution isn’t something you need to achieve immediately. Think of it as a work in progress; a chance to improve over the period of a year.
The big corporates are responsible for much of the waste on our planet, but as consumers, the ball is in our court. Using our buying power, we can demand a better future for our oceans and wider planet, and decrease the influence of companies such as Amazon.