Every year the post Christmas clean-up means finding a new home for all sorts of leftovers from the festive season. But it also gives you many opportunities to recycle the unwanted items and reduce the amount of waste your family generates. This guide will give you some ideas to reduce the environmental impact of yuletide for years to come.
From the Christmas decorations used to brighten up your home during December to the food and drink consumed with friends and family, and the unwanted or duplicated Xmas gifts received on Christmas Day, Christmas waste can soon start mounting up. Anything can be recycled; it’s just a matter of knowing how and where.
Real Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly than plastic trees, even though the latter can be reused year after year. That makes potted Christmas trees the most environmentally friend type of Christmas tree you could choose to decorate your home during the festive season. Unless your tree has outgrown your room or hasn’t fared so well through the summer months, come December you’ll be able to welcome it back into your home and festoon it with decorations for another Christmas.
If you opted for real but your Christmas tree is not potted, there are a number of schemes that offer recycling of the redundant conifer. Local council tips have green waste recycling, but there are many charities that also collect old Christmas trees. Councils tend to either chip up trees to use for mulching or path cover, or compost them and sell the nutritious mixture to customers for use in gardens or apply it to flower beds in communal areas and parks.
Charities like the National Trust use old Christmas trees to protect dunes from erosion, whilst scout groups around the UK and other charities offer recycling schemes and collect trees to raise funds.
Sending cards with festive greetings is still popular, so on top of choosing cards made from cardboard that is responsibly sourced and/or support local charities, recycling your cards after Christmas is another way to reduce the impact of your Christmas and New Year’s greetings.
Most local councils now include cardboard recycling with their kerbside collection schemes. Christmas cards can usually be added to the empty boxes and packaging from food, but if your recycling bin is quite full already or you have a lot of cards and want to de-clutter, they can also be taken to local tips and added to their cardboard recycling facilities.
Rather than simply sending your cards for recycling, if you have children or are crafty, another way to green the post Christmas period, and fill some time when the TV is showing repeats, is to use your old cards, or parts of them, to make gift tags or decorations for your own Christmas cards for next year.
As well as piles of Christmas cards, the post Xmas clean up often means dealing with a bagful or two of discarded wrapping paper. Christmas gifts also tend to generate their own waste too, with boxes and packing. You don’t have to worry about how it’s all going to fit in the wheelie bin, however, as most items can be recycled or reused.
Wrapping paper and used envelopes can be put out with kerbside collection schemes, and if it exceeds the space in your collection bag, most councils don’t mind collecting extra waste paper in additional bags left out on collection day. Cardboard boxes can also be left for kerbside collection but like with Christmas cards, if you’re struggling for space you can always take them to your local council recycling centre, and some supermarkets also have cardboard recycling as well as paper recycling facilities. Check out what is available in your local area at Recycle Now.
If you can’t bear to see all that colourful paper going in the bin, albeit the recycling bin, there are a number of craft projects you could undertake to give it a new lease of life. One pretty idea, which can be both decorative and functional, is to make papier mache bowls using the paper scraps and PVA glue. Simply layer pieces of paper, either in the same or coordinating paper colours and designs, over a balloon or use the outside of an existing plastic or ceramic bowl as a template.
Food waste is a big issue and especially at Christmas, a time when many people indulge in more food, it’s important to try and reduce the amount of waste created.
If you’ve had a turkey or goose, gammon or beef, cold cuts are a great way to use up leftover meat. Sometimes people prefer to have different meats and joints throughout the festive season. Making the most of the produce though can not only save space in your bin but save you money at a normally expensive time of year.
Leftover meat can be frozen in portions in boxes or freezer bags, making ideal ingredients for stir fries, pies and curries in January. Potatoes and vegetables like sprouts can be put in the fridge and used as accompaniments for other meals in Christmas week and meat bones can be used to make stock which can be frozen and used to make healthy homemade soups during the New Year. Even left over panettone can be made into bread and butter pudding. Planning ahead can make a normally lean month easier to get through with tasty, quality home made dishes.
After the eating is done, don’t forget the compost heap. Veg peelings and left over veg, fruit and items like bread and egg shells can be composted to give your garden nutritious food in the growing season. After stock is made and frozen, the bones don’t have to go in the bin either. If your council provides a food recycling box, any cooked meat, bones and other food scraps that can’t be composted can be added to your food recycling bin where it will get used in communal composting facilities.
Every year there’ll be something you get for Christmas that you don’t want or need. Perhaps you’ve been inundated with toiletries and beauty gift sets. Maybe you’ve got a scarf, hat or socks that just aren’t ‘you’. Or you might have received duplicate DVDs, CDs or books. They don’t have to go to waste.
If you have a gift receipt, you may be able to return the items and swap them for something you do like or need. If not, or if you don’t want to offend Aunt Alice or the neighbours next door by asking for the receipt, there are still many options.
First of all, you could give the item to a local charity shop. Many have stock appeals in the New Year to keep the shelves full in the first months of the year, and the funds raised can contribute to their valuable work. Alternatively, you could sell it at a car boot sale or on eBay and use the money to treat yourself to something else in the sales, or donate it to a raffle or tombola. Freecycle is another avenue for finding homes for items you don’t use, and there are groups all around the UK.
So whatever you need to find a home for, a little bit of effort can reduce the carbon footprint of the aftermath of Christmas in your home. Reducing, reusing and recycling is also a great mantra for the year ahead.