The amount of rubbish the average household accumulates at Christmas seems to rise year on year.
From toy boxes to wrapping paper and to leftover food and Christmas cards – it is truly the season of excess in every way, but what can we do to help make it more of a green Christmas?
The Government reckons there is usually around 30% more waste than usual at Christmas with recycling rates rising to around 40% extra over the festive season.
So what can we do? Here’s our list of 10 typical Christmas items which can have a very different use after December 25th.
1. Give something back
Charity shops are begging for donations all year round but with more people penny-conscious than usual at this time of year, many go to second-hand stores and charity shops to make purchases for loved ones.
Sue Ellis from Oxfam said:
“We really do see an increase in footfall around all of our shops at this time of year.
"What is it they say? A new year, new start? Why don’t you have a sort out either before the big day or in between the Christmas and New Year so you can make room for all your new gifts too. It is a win-win.
“You’re doing a good deed, passing on much loved old used toys to other children, while raising money and making space for the new ones which Santa is bound to bring.”
2. Cutting down on those portions…
Yes, we know that Christmas is typically that time of year to indulge in the extra few glasses of wine or those few chocolates from the tin, but do you really need the massive amount of food you are used to buying?
History says not.
It is estimated around 4.2 million plates of Christmas dinner will be thrown away according to the Love Food, Hate Waste company. A spokesman said:
“It takes water, energy, fuel and packaging to produce the food we all love and buy. Do you need as much as you are buying?”
They advise to plan shopping according to the exact numbers of guests expected and shop around to get the best deals as well as buying produce that can be frozen to prolong life.
Other top tips include using leftovers by researching new recipes to make with food and sticking to a very specific shopping list when buying.
3. Get stylish… and save the trees
Wrapping paper - the blight of eco-friendly groups everywhere as it turns out the festive looking stuff is actually not so jolly at all. Some eco warrior groups nationwide have even called for it to be banned.
Non-recyclable, the glitter-covered and brightly-coloured paper so often seen under trees ends up in landfill by the bucket load as it cannot go in the recycling bin.
Waste companies estimate that the wrapping paper thrown out by Brits over the Christmas period could stretch 227,000 miles, nearly as far as the moon.
So this year why not save the planet while being super stylish and wrapping your presents in eco-friendly brown paper?
It looks more traditional and you will be doing your bit to keep the landfill amounts down.
Lisa Mendez from The Living Coast, an eco-group looking after the Lewes Downs said:
“Wrapping paper is one of the main scourges at this time of year and I think people just generally do not realise how bad wrapping paper can be for the planet.
“Most of it cannot be recycled and when it is so easy to pick up and cheap from all the supermarkets, it is convenient, but this is the way we change the future – by looking for environmentally friendly options rather than those most easily at hand.”
4. Get crafty!
Pretty sweetie wrappers, shiny chocolate coins, Quality Street chocolate wrappers – these typically come in bright, beautiful colours – but what can you do with them once the sweet stuff has been consumed?
What about crafts?
Denise Ellers, who runs a DoodleDaubber pottery painting café in West Sussex said:
“We find that footfall increases in the run up to Christmas massively, with parents looking to get their kids to make presents for family members – from handprint mugs to hand-painted Christmas cards – so crafting is one for all the family to enjoy at this time of year.
“Collages, thank you cards, decorating picture frames – old wrappers and brightly coloured cardboard parts from toys can all be used again, and can take up a whole wad of time for little ones looking for things to do in that post Christmas day haze when no-one really knows what day it is.”
5. Reuse those stamps
Last posting dates are many the source of stress for many households nationwide, but once your festive cards are in the post – what do you do with the ones you get in return?
Of course you can recycle the envelopes they arrive in, but there is also another way, which will see you also help out those less fortunate than yourselves.
If you have a collection of used postage stamps which you just cannot bear to throw away, there are now lots of organisations that can recycle them to raise money for good causes.
Macmillan Cancer Support, Parkinson’s UK, RNIB and RSPB are just some of the worthy organisations which ask for your used stamps to be sent their way.
RSPB are currently asking for used stamps to raise funds to help albatrosses, while the Church of Scotland – which annually asks for used stamps – says it raises around £4,000 a year from the recycling programme it runs – not a paltry amount.
For a full list of the charities accepting stamps visit
6. Christmas cards
Most cards are paper-based so these can be recycled alongside the envelopes, but problems start to arise when the cards get more and more elaborate.
Anything with glitter or ribbons attached cannot be recycled, meaning that piece of cardboard or paper goes straight into landfill.
But some thrifty shoppers on Mumsnet have come up with an innovative way of re-using these glitzy cards which are not fit for the recycling bin.
One user, going by the name LoosiesMumma, wrote:
“I always, always cut the Christmas cards up, I cut the decoration bit on the front and then put it in the box with my Christmas decorations before I put them back in the loft.
“Then the next year when I get my tree down, I already have a load of gift tags ready to attach to presents.
“Double the use and no money spent at all.”
7. Christmas trees
Real Christmas trees can be recycled and turned into chippings for parks and play areas, and most councils do this.
Some authorities including Gateshead and Winchester even have special collection and drop-off points to make this as easy as possible around the start of January once the festive season is out of the way.
All tinsel and decorations must be off (of course they can be used next year too if stored properly!)
Artificial trees cannot be recycled at recycling depots but are often used year after year by families who store them away for use each year.
Those wanting to bin their artificial tree may find that charity shops will accept them to sell on.
Often the one thing parents dash out to buy on Christmas Eve when they realise that much-wanted toy in fact does not come with batteries.
But these are surprisingly easily recycled once they’ve run out. All types of household batteries, including button ones for items such as watches, can be recycled to be used again.
Some councils collect batteries as part of their household collection service but in most areas there will be a designated place to take these. Recycling depots tend to take them and there are often drop-off points in supermarkets.
9. Upcycling to give those gifts the homemade touch
Does your Aunt Susie really need another bath soak set? If you’re finding yourself constantly picking up bulk generic items for families, why not think a bit more outside the box this year?
You can save yourself money and recycle by bringing a homemade touch to the presents under the Christmas tree and people are bound to be impressed and touched that you went out of your way to make something special for them.
A little bit of creativity goes a long way: jam jars can be revamped to make excellent candle holders while old bulbs painted a pretty colour can make beautiful homemade baubles.
Old tubs can even be used to give homemade scrubs which take no time to make at all, just grab some soft brown sugar, mix it with an oil like coconut or olive oil then add some drops of some favoured essential oils and voila, a homemade body scrub which smells heavenly!
Christmas cards could be turned into bunting for next year and twigs from the garden can be put together to make rustic Christmas tree crafts.
10. Giving the gift of time
Consider whether loved ones even need presents that require wrapping. Can you come up with different ideas to spend time with family and friends instead of throwing money at them on one day of the year?
Ideas for innovative presents include swimming lessons or a day out somewhere special. You can give new parents babysitting vouchers for some much-needed free time away from their little darlings or better still, you could buy them an annual membership to the National Trust or English Heritage, which they can enjoy all year.
The possibilities are endless!