Wrapping Up Warm at Christmas – Is Christmas Waste Warming the Planet?

2019 saw the UK experience it’s warmest winter day on record in February, followed by the hottest day on record on 25 July 2019.  These alarm bells have led to growing calls for climate action, but as the year draws to a close, do we need to look at our Christmas habits and trim some of the trimmings?

GWP Group did some research on the seasonal habits and the consequences in terms of waste:


Brits consumed 10 million turkeys last Christmas – the bad news is this also resulted in over 3,000 tonnes of turkey packaging.  What to do:  buying your turkey fresh and organic from a farm will reduce your carbon footprint by 5% – and encourages a more sustainable lifestyle.


The UK alone will eat 25 million Christmas puddings and  eat 175 million mince pies – resulting in tonnes of aluminium, plastic and cardboard packaging.  What to do? Try only buy what you need – buy fresh from a local bakery, or even better, why not bake your own? Most people love the taste of home made food, and there’s no packaging!

Canned Drinks

As many as 500 million canned drinks are sold over the festive period (on top of the baseline sales figures).  What to do? Don’t throw the can in the bin – recycling just one of these aluminium cans saves enough energy to run a set of Christmas tree lights for two whole hours!

Bottled Drinks

13,350 tonnes of glass is binned every year during December and January. What to do? If all of this was recycled it could save 4,200 tonnes of CO2 – the same as taking 1,300 cars off the road every year, so don’t throw those wine bottles in the bin.

Gift Wrap

Consumers in the UK will use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year – the average household will get through four rolls of wrapping paper.  What to do? Buy wrapping paper that can be recycled.  Avoid glitter or foil, choose paper that can be scrunched and has a normal texture – or even better, re-use gift bags and paper if you can!


1 billion Christmas Cards will end up in bins – the equivalent of 33 million trees! What to do? Send e-cards and make a donation to an environmental charity instead – or if you must send cards, choose cards that use recycled paper!


Glitter is an enemy as far as the environment is concerned.  Glitter in your recycling often sees a whole bin being rejected and thrown away instead.  Glitter can clog up recycling machinery which contaminates the batch.  What to do? Avoid packaging and cards that use glitter altogether – it’s not needed to have a good time!


Many small plastic toys from cheap crackers will wind up in the bin – plus there is plastic on many food items these days.  Christmas jumpers, too, are often made from plastic and are rarely used for more than one season, What to do?  Avoid choosing food in black plastic trays as they can’t be recycled, and think about making your own crackers with gifts that won’t just be thrown in the bin – or buy more expensive ones that are recyclable and have higher quality gifts that won’t be discarded with the napkins – and while we are on the subject, think about using reuseable napkins.  As for Christmas jumpers, if you really need one, try to wear it for more than one year and try to choose one made from natural fabrics.


Six in ten people say they don’t feel guilty about what they throw away over the festive period – but one in ten admits to arguing with family over the amount of waste they produce, often expensive food that just doesn’t get eaten.   What to do?   Buy only what you need, and think about the environment by choosing products with recyclable packaging.


Choose gifts carefully – rather than buying stocking fillers you know will wind up in the bin, but fill up space, try to be creative and thoughtful.  What to do? You could gift an experience such as tickets for the cinema, a short break, afternoon tea at a hotel or even family membership to CADW, English Heritage or the National Trust.  You’ll be remembered long after the season and best of all, no packaging at all!

Christmas is a fun time and nobody wants to be Bah! Humbug – but conscious shopping, conscious recycling and a little bit of thought can truly deliver a wonderful experience that doesn’t come with sour consequences.  Merry Christmas!