Recycling and using up food are as much a part of our Christmas routine as falling asleep in front of James Bond

1 December 2020

  • Web visits show the UK’s thoughts turn to recycling on New Year’s Day.
  • Bubble and squeak, honey-glazed gammon and lamb Rogan Josh were the most searched-for post-Christmas dishes last year.
  • Still some Christmas confusion over recycling – the Scrunch Test and other solutions…

Analysis by WRAP of its Recycle Now and Love Food Hate Waste websites over Christmas 2019 reveal that the UK’s commitment to recycling and preventing food being wasted intensifies during the festive season. Many households even log-on during the big day to find out how to recycle a variety of common Christmas items, or for an inspiring tasty recipe to prevent leftover Christmas foods going to waste.

Visits to Recycle Now between Christmas Day and New Year 2019 show a busy week for the UK as we began the Great Christmas Clear Up, often as soon as the dishwasher was stacked. Searches for the twelve most commonly queried items over Christmas show that as a nation we like to have our recycling sorted in time for New Year, with searches of the Recycling Locator for what and where to recycle peaking on New Year’s Day.

In 2019, the most searched for item over the Christmas week was wrapping paper, accounting for more than 20,000 visits in one week. While the ubiquitous Christmas tree (real and artificial) came second with 14,000 searches. Clothing and electrical items were third and fourth as more of us avoid the residual bin for these valuable and re-usable items. Searches for glass ranked fifth, plastic film sixth and Christmas cards and decorations seventh and eighth respectively. Mobile phones were the ninth most searched for item during the festive break, ahead of coffee pod capsules (ten), batteries (eleven) and finally cardboard as the twelfth most searched for item in the week after Christmas. 

Visits to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste website are also expected to surge after Christmas, with food naturally playing a key role in celebrations. Last year the website received one-fifth of all its 2019 visits during the Christmas break. Boxing Day proved the busiest day for home chefs, with visits for post-Christmas inspiration. Searches ranged from recipe ideas to use up classic Christmas staples, to guidance on freezing leftover meat. The Portion Planner proved indispensable in helping gauge the right number of parsnips and other staples, and the A to Z Storage Guide in helping keep any food in top condition.  

The UK’s most searched for menu idea in 2019 was Boxing Day bubble and squeak, followed by honey-glazed gammon; with the site’s lamb Rogan Josh recipe just ahead of Mary Berry’s celebrity super-foodie and leftovers lover interview! The Love Food Hate Waste website received visitors from more than one hundred countries around the world over the Christmas period.  

While Christmas will be a very different experience for us all this year, WRAP believes people will still take time to ensure we pass on our unwanted items responsibly. The environmental charity today publishes a suite of helpful information across all its citizen campaigns to help the UK have a sustainable Christmas, including Recycle Now, Recycle Now in Northern Ireland, Be Mighty (Wales – from 14 December) and Love Food Hate Waste, and festive advice for recycling and repurposing clothes on Love Your Clothes, and information on Clear on Plastics. 

Sarah Clayton, Head of Citizen Behaviour Change WRAP, said “This has been an unprecedented year for everyone, but as a nation we’ve continued to care about the impact our actions have on the environment. Our surveys of public behaviour around food, clothing and plastic waste during lockdown give a clear picture that more of us are recycling than ever before – nine out of ten people – which is fantastic. We’re also taking more steps to ensure less food goes to waste, and that we dispose of our unwanted clothing in ways that keep them from going to waste. There hasn’t been much good news this year, but our growing commitment to the environment is definitely a highlight of 2020, and will stand us all in good stead as we tackle the challenge of climate change.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, "Christmas will be different this year, but as we enjoy the festivities we must continue to keep the environment in mind.

“Before throwing anything in the bin it’s important to consider how it could be recycled or disposed of in more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.

“Wrapping paper can be reused. Cards can be turned into labels for next year. Food waste can be composted. Christmas trees can be recycled for use in flood defences. There are many ways to reuse and recycle what we no longer want, and I hope everyone will strive for a waste-free Christmas this year.”

When it comes to Christmas jumpers, WRAP’s Love Your Clothes campaign offers creative tips on refashioning an existing sweater into a festive Christmas original, or trying a pre-loved Christmas jumper from a charity shop. The website has step-by-step guides on upcycling a range of everyday clothes into new items such as laptop cases, bags and even a mulled wine bottle warmer. The Clear on Plastics campaign is running a focus on popular Christmas gifts items such as beauty, wellness and toiletry products to help people reduce plastic pollution through the four ‘R’s – Reduce, Refill, Recycle and Return. 


Notes to Editor

Notes to editor 

Top tips for Christmas recycling and saving food leftovers

  • Do the wrapping paper scrunch test to see if you can recycle it. If it springs back it contains plastic and can’t be recycled. Paper and Christmas cards covered in glitter are NOT recyclable. Remember to also remove ribbons, bows, batteries and other adornments before recycling. 
  • Flatten cardboard boxes to make room in your recycling bin or bag. 
  • Empty, rinse and squash plastic bottles and pop the lid back on. 
  • Buy recyclable Christmas Crackers, and avoid single use plastic gift crackers and those covered in glitter as these cannot be recycled. 
  • Recycle Now’s Recycling Locator has information on what can be recycled from your home as well as other recycling collection points across the UK. 
  • Love food Hate Waste has a huge number of inspirational recipe ideas for using up leftovers. The portion planner makes meal-planning simple to check portion sizes, and buy just what you need. 

Christmas recycling numbers 

  • Artificial trees need to be used for up to nine Christmases to have a lesser impact on the environment than natural alternatives, depending on the method of disposal. 
  • A staggering 300,000 tonnes of cardboard is used in our homes during the festive season – enough to wrap Big Ben almost 260,000 times! If all the card packaging was laid side by side it would cover the return distance between London and Lapland, a hundred times over. 

ANNUAL food waste in Christmas terms

  • Enough potatoes are thrown away annually by UK homes to produce enough roasties on Christmas Day for the whole country, for 48 years. 
  • The amount of poultry thrown away each year could feed a fully seated Cardiff’s Principality Stadium more than 10,000 times over. And make 800 million boxing day curries. 
  • 636,000 reindeer weigh the same as the amount of carrots binned in the UK each year.


  • WRAP is an environmental charity that works with governments, businesses and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are used sustainably. It’s the charity leading The UK Plastics Pact, a world first initiative, as well as Love Food Hate Waste, the Courtauld Commitment, Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, Textiles 2030 and Recycle Now. WRAP works collaboratively and develops and delivers evidence-based, impactful solutions to reduce the environmental cost of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the plastic packaging we use. Founded in 2000 in the UK, WRAP now works throughout the world and is a Global Alliance Partner of The Royal Foundation’s Earthshot Prize.
  • Recycle Now is one of WRAP’s citizen facing brands. Recycle Now encourages and motivates citizens to recycle more things more often, from all around the home. Using ground-breaking insights and behaviour change theory, Recycle Now campaigns through activities like Recycle Week Read the Recycle Now Christmas blog
  • Love Food Hate Waste was established in 2007 to inspire and provide practical tips for saving food from the bin at home. The impact of WRAP’s citizens’ campaigns is amplified by the actions of our partners, and WRAP encourages this through an array of partner assets available from our Partner Resources Library. 
  • Launched in 2014, the Love Your Clothes campaign has been developed with industry organisations to help change the way UK citizens buy, use and dispose of their clothing. Its aim is to reduce the environmental impact of clothing across the UK and influence a more circular approach to clothing globally. Love Your Clothes is part of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), which is coordinated by WRAP.
  • Clear on Plastics has been designed to give citizens clear information about the complex world of plastics and the environment, helping them to make their own informed choices.
  • WRAP experts are available for interviews, briefings and comment contact: 
    • Ian Palmer, Media Relations Manager 07802 873 431 @WRAP_UK. 
    • Our media centre will be closed over Christmas, but pre-records can be arranged before the 24th December.