Dear Santa, this year all I want is a plastic-free Christmas

Christmas Crackers with unrecyclable shiny metallic paper

In the United Kingdom, around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are thrown away without being recycled at Christmas.

The festive period brings with it a huge rise in the amount of single-use plastics from decorations, to wrapping paper, and even some of the food for Christmas dinner contains unrecyclable plastic.

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most wasteful, creating a rise in the volume of waste materials being produced and disposed of during this busy season.

Last year, the City of Edinburgh Council collected 32,000 tonnes of rubbish over Christmas, of which only 38% was recycled.

Karen Doran, Edinburgh city centre Councillor and Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said: “As in previous years, we’re working hard to make sure changes to bin collections are minimal over the festive period.


“The average household throws away about 30% extra waste every Christmas so it’s important that we make it easy to recycle as much of that as possible.”

According to Edinburgh Council, households produce on average 30% more waste every Christmas.

The amount of food and drink wasted in the UK increases by 80% over the period.

On average, over Christmas, UK households throw away an extra:

  • 115kg of general waste
  • 8.83kg of food
  • 4.8kg of plastic packaging
  • 38 greetings cards
  • 19 cans
  • 161g aluminium foil

A recycled Christmas tree will have a 3.5kg CO2 carbon footprint, compared to a 16kg footprint for any tree sent to landfill.

Amongst the materials that can be recycled are Christmas cards, wrapping paper (other than that made with metallic film or glitter), packaging, foil and food leftovers.

Find out more about what can be recycled on the City of Edinburgh Council website.


Christmas Crackers available at Poundland

Christmas crackers are also a source of single-use plastic and, according to the University of Hull, over 150 million crackers are pulled over the Christmas table each year.

The university has said that “making changes to this one small bit of our Christmas routine would have a big impact in reducing seasonal plastic waste”.

Even if only a third of this year’s 150 million Christmas crackers are pulled to reveal a plastic cracker gift, this would still mean that only 50 million little bits of plastic would become part of our environment over the festive period.

John Lewis and Waitrose have announced they will stop selling Christmas crackers containing plastic toys from 2020 as part of their plans to cut down on single-use plastic.

Instead crackers will be filled with toys made from recyclable materials and will not use plastic glitter.

Mandy Pursey, the Senior Communications Manager for John Lewis & Partners said: 

“John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners have announced that this will be the last Christmas when they sell Christmas crackers with plastic toys inside.


“Instead crackers will be filled with toys made from recyclable materials such as metal and paper games, and decorated with techniques such as embossing, rather than plastic glitter.  The decision has been made as part of the Partnership’s plans to cut down on single use plastic products.”

The company is one of a number of retailers pledging to cut the amount of plastic in its Christmas range.

Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Asda also switched to plastic-free Christmas products this year.

Individuals have also been contributing to this initiative including Joanne, a mother of three from Sheffield, who decided this year to make her own Christmas crackers, instead of buying them.

Joanne said: “The reason I want to do them is so they are environmentally friendly with a personal usable and recyclable gift and uplifting and motivational quote, bringing out the true spirit of caring and sharing in this festive time.”