It’s December, the season of twinkling lights, wrapping up warm and eating your own body weight in chocolate. But it’s also the time of year when our pointless plastic footprints go through the roof. Even when we manage to avoid buying plastic presents, shops bombard us with plastic at every turn – satsumas in plastic nets, shiny wrapping paper and a lot of glitter. Time to find out how to reduce plastic during the festive season.
We are in a climate emergency and single-use plastic packaging is made from precious natural resources. It’s then manipulated into packaging that we don’t even need, or want. So this festive season let’s make sure to take time to get creative and avoid excess plastic ending up in our air, water, food and environment.
Over the last year, supermarket plastic has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes, despite retailers making public commitments to cut down their plastic packaging. Seven out of the 10 UK supermarkets have increased their plastic footprint. While the responsibility firmly lies with government to introduce laws to reduce this colossal waste, we know we can also do our bit.
Here are nine ideas showing how to reduce plastic use and have fun this Christmas.
1. Get creative with your wrapping
Shiny wrapping paper looks great, but the shininess also makes it impossible to recycle. Instead, why not try plain brown paper jazzed up with fabric ribbon? Or, even better, seek out reusable options like fabric wraps or gift boxes and bags that can be used again next year. A tip of my nan’s is to save paper from pressies you open to wrap other people’s gifts in.
2. Deck the halls
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved foil lametta and leaving fake snow for reindeer, but that’s before I realised the impact it has on people, wildlife and the planet. Unfortunately, it all turns into microplastics that enter the food chain. But luckily there are lots of options to deck the halls without hurting the planet.
Another way is to make your own decorations with loved ones. That could be making paper chains and ornaments from old cards and wrapping paper or making your own wreath. It’s also really fun thing to do together.
3. Ditch the plastic fruit and veg
Supporting your local markets, greengrocers or farm shops can be a great way to reduce your plastic footprint and support local businesses. If you shop at supermarkets, go for the loose fruit and veg – this can also really help to reduce food waste as you can buy what you need. I don’t know about you but when it comes to the Christmas shop, my eyes are always too big for my belly when it comes to the multipacks.
4. Choose plastic-free presents
Instead of buying gifts filled with plastic, treat your friends and family with presents which create as little waste as possible. Top ideas include tickets for gigs or the theatre, tasty homemade cakes or biscuits, second hand clothes, or swap books with fellow literature lovers.
5. Choose reusable cups
Around 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK and less than one in 400 are recycled. Make sure to carry a reusable cup with you – if you don’t have one, it could be a great gift to ask for.
6. Go for tap water
Same with a reusable water bottle, because we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day. Tap water in the UK is safe to drink and there’s even an app that tells you where you can refill your bottle for free. Making the transition to a reusable bottle, and buying them for your friends is a great way to turn the tide on the waste.
7. Tone down the glitter
Popular though it is, glitter is not good news for the environment. It’s effectively tiny pieces of plastic, which can end up being washed down the sink. These eventually end up in our rivers and oceans. While glitter is definitely not one of the major causes of plastic pollution, it’s still plastic going into the ocean. Avoid glittery make-up and cards and stick to sparkle that won’t go down the plughole.
8. Avoid disposable cutlery if possible
For some people, the festive period can mean a non-stop flow of guests descending on your house. While disposable cutlery can be incredibly useful in these situations, it’s also not ideal for the environment. Asking every guest to bring their own cutlery might be a step too far for you but consider asking one of your guests or a neighbour if you can borrow some from them. You could also consider investing in some lightweight reusable plastic cutlery to bring out on these occasions. And if all else fails and you end up with five extra guests and not enough forks, you can still ask people to reuse their cutlery for different courses. Just don’t forget to rinse them – sprouts and mince pies may not be a great flavour combo.
9. Grab some reusable shopping bags
It’s become clear that bags for life aren’t working as we wanted them to, as the average household is buying 54 every year. We know it’s something extra to remember, but it really makes a huge difference. So in whatever ways you can, remember to take reusable shopping bags this shopping season. Remind yourself with a note on your front door on the way out or a phone alert – whatever works for you!
This blog was first published in December 2018 and has been updated with new information.