Four tips for better recycling at Christmas

It’s the season to be merry, but the sheer volume of stuff we throw away during the holiday season isn’t anyone’s idea of ​​fun.

Household waste typically increases at Christmas by about 30%, including cardboard, bottles or trees.

So how can you celebrate while doing less damage to the planet?

Here are four tips on recycling and waste to spend a more eco-sustainable Christmas.

1. Know about packing and packaging

Not all wrapping paper will be accepted by recycling centers as it may contain plastic films or metallic elements, according to environmental charity WRAP.

There’s a simple test you can do to see if your wrapping paper can be recycled: ball it up. If it stays in a ball shape, it can probably be recycled. But if it does go back, it probably contains plastic and can’t be recycled. Fabric does not tend to be recyclable due to short fibers, and the same is true for fabric-like wrapping paper.

Make sure you remove any ribbons, bows, batteries, tape, and other accessories before placing things in the bin.

Even better, don’t throw the paper away, save it for next year’s gifts. If you go this route, you’ll need to be very careful unwrapping, certainly nearly impossible for excited little hands on Christmas morning. (You might even want to make notes to avoid giving your aunt her wrapping paper next year!)

Cardboard is recyclable but as with wrapping paper, remember to remove any adhesive tapes, plastic or polystyrene inserts. Some boxes also have a shiny or waxed plastic film on them which makes them non-recyclable.

Flatten and squash the boxes to make more room in your bin, bag or recycling box.

Empty and rinse the bottles. Leftover food or liquids may contaminate other recyclables and if bottles contain liquids they may not be recycled as they are deemed too heavy by the automated sorting process. The liquid can also damage machinery. Leave on the labels – these will be removed in the process and squish the bottles to save space. Leave the lids attached as this will ensure that the lid is recycled along with the bottle.

You can check exactly what can and cannot be recycled in your area using the Recycle Now Recycling Locator.

2. Be smart with leftovers

Around 6.6 million tonnes of food goes to waste from our homes every year in the UK, costing households around £14bn a year, or £730 for the average household, according to WRAP.

He says the amount of poultry thrown away in a year could yield 800 million curries on Boxing Day. And the amount of carrots thrown away from UK homes each year could feed Santa’s nine reindeer one carrot a day for almost 500,000 years.

Try to get leftover turkey in the refrigerator as soon as possible. It can be kept for up to two days, according to most recommendations. However, a large bird can take longer to eat, particularly if you feel you need a turkey break. Perhaps freeze what’s left and thaw in the refrigerator or by using the microwave on the defrost setting directly before reheating. See the UK Food Standards website for specific tips on turkey food safety.

Leftover Christmas pudding usually keeps for up to two weeks when refrigerated, according to Nigella Lawson’s website, while US nutrition website Eat Right says you can keep the filling in the refrigerator for up to three to four days. Pigs cooked in blankets should be fine for a week, according to US government recommendations for cooling sausages and bacon.

The obvious way to waste less food is to simply buy and cook less. To which? a survey revealed that the top foods people buy too much of at Christmas are cheese, biscuits, chocolate, alcohol and vegetables.

Use Love Food Hate Waste’s annual definitive guide to Christmas food planning. to find recipes for leftovers and tips on how to freeze and reuse uneaten food to minimize food waste this year.

3. And the tree?

If you buy a tree that still has roots attached, you can either plant it in your garden if you have one (although of course be careful as they will continue to grow, sometimes very fast) or put it back out and bring it back next year. The RHS recommend not keeping a potted tree indoors for more than 12 days and have some great advice on how to look after it.

If you’ve purchased a cut tree that no longer has its roots, chances are your local council has a collection point, or they may even collect your tree from your home in the new year. Check your local council’s website. Trees can be recycled into wood chips or shredded and composted. Tinsel and balls are generally not recyclable.

Artificial trees can’t be recycled, but they can be reused, so if you don’t want to keep it for next year or don’t have room for it, charities and care homes can take them if they’re in good shape.

4. Choose Christmas crackers wisely

London baker Tom Smith patented the first Christmas cracker in 1847 according to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Now a regular feature of most festive dining tables, more than 150 million were sold in 2017.

But each set comes in its own cardboard and plastic packaging. Many contain hard-to-recycle materials like glitter, and of course there are the little plastic “surprises” they contain. When choosing your Christmas crackers, think about what’s inside to avoid sending more plastic waste to landfills.

Unless declared recyclable, party hats are probably not suitable for recycling, according to Zero Waste Scotland, for the same reasons as tissue paper.

Strips of paper that rattle when you pass them across a table should be, though the gunpowder-coated tip is probably worth cutting off. (If you feel like tinkering with the science behind a cracker pop, the Open University can help.)

Try buying recyclable Christmas crackers with paper hats and gifts that will last – there are plenty on the market – or even better buy DIY cracker kits or get creative with loo rolls.

One consolation: Dad’s jokes on little slips of paper might be awful but they’re probably recyclable, so at least you can throw them away knowing you’re not harming the planet.

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