How to reduce your waste at Christmas

It’s the most wasteful time of the year. Without being a scrooge, Christmas has developed into the one time of year where we become frivolous with our spending and buy too much – ultimately for it to be wasted. £42 million of unwanted Christmas gifts head into our bins each year which let’s be honest, is more like a Halloween storyline than a magical Christmas one! In this blog, we’re going to take a look at how you can reduce your Christmas waste while keeping the extra sparkle that we all need at this time of year.

Where does our Christmas waste come from? 

There are a few main areas where our Christmas waste comes from. You may already be aware of a big one – considering most of Christmas morning is spent sifting through the mounds of it that remain from the carnage of present opening. 

Wrapping paper waste 

If there’s one area to minimise your Christmas waste, it’s wrapping paper. In 2018, enough wrapping paper was discarded to almost pave a paper path to the moon! That’s 227,000 miles to be exact. If you’re going to wrap your gifts in wrapping paper, the bare minimum should be to use recyclable paper.  

Not all wrapping can be recycled, if it is foil-lined or covered in glitter don’t put it in your recycling. If you’re unsure do the scrunch test. Anything that scrunches up into a ball and can hold its shape is recyclable. But if you want to be safe, like us, use brown paper. You can always decorate it with twine and festive flowers. 

Alternatively, wrap gifts using other gifts like scarves and t-shirts. The cloth material will be reused and it’s easy to wrap with. Another idea is to not wrap it at all and blind the receiver. You can turn it into a little game whereby they need to guess their gift. 


Christmas card waste 

Another area, although decreasing in popularity, is Christmas cards. For some people, it’s a way to keep in touch with those long-distance friends that you rarely see. It’s important to let them know you still care and are thinking of them during the festive period. However, it can create a lot of waste. 

On average, we send 18 cards each, that’s over 1 billion every year. The majority of them are thrown away as the decorations come down at the end of the month. It’s important to note that each greeting card roughly weighs 25g which can add 350g CO2e onto your carbon footprint if it isn’t recycled (which glitter cards cannot be).  

For this reason, we opt to send e-cards or a long email. At maximum, these will add just 17g CO2e onto your carbon footprint, plus there is no physical waste. We’d much rather a heartfelt email be sent to our loved ones, so we don’t rely on them recycling the recyclable cards we chose. With over 94% of the UK population having direct access to the internet, there’s little need for snail mail. 

Unwanted Christmas gifts 

This may come as a surprise but a lot of the gifts we buy at Christmas are wasted. The tempting bits and bobs by the tills in the shops. The joke gifts. The ‘I didn’t know what to get so I grabbed something cheap online’ present. These are the types of gifts that add to our Christmas waste. 

Of course, there are other types of gifts that end up being thrown away, but it can be difficult to know what people do or don’t want. So, if you’re struggling to give someone a gift this year, keep it simple or don’t buy anything. We could recommend a bunch of eco-friendly products, but ultimately the gift is not about the giver. Make it useful, like a new cookware dish, or make it edible like festive shortbread. That way you maximise your chances of reducing waste. 

Each year the UK spends £700 million on unwanted presents, £42 million of which end up in the bin. Don’t waste your money with the fear of not getting your uncle’s girlfriends daughter-in-law a gift. Social pressures are creating a world of waste, try not to give into them.

Christmas is a time of year for the family to come together, and we’re so grateful that this year is looking more hopeful than last. But it’s vital to remember that the most important thing is being together; not giving more presents to make up for last year’s absences. Now is not the time to indulge more in gift-giving, it’s the time to spend quality time together. If you have a family tradition that helps you reduce your Christmas waste, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to try a few out. 

3 Responses

  1. Hope this is where we give our Family Christmas gift ideas.
    For the past 17 years we have given Charity gifts – this Year TRAIDCRAFT. So needy people overseas get help with each persons gift card – with explanation.

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