Wishing you a green Christmas

2 December 2022

How reducing food waste and recycling can gift the planet a brighter New Year 

  • Christmas can be pricey at the best of times, and this year budgets are likely to be tighter so Love Food Hate Waste is sharing festive food waste prevention tips that can help save people money by making your Yuletide food go further.
  • Delicious new meals can be easily made from Christmas leftovers – Last Christmas the UK’s most searched for recipe was Boxing Day bubble and squeak.
  • Recycle Now tackles the most common Christmas recycling niggles to rid your home of packaging and wrapping responsibly.

Climate action NGO WRAP is using the run up to Christmas to help people save money by avoiding food going to waste, and have a greener Christmas through its Love Food Hate Waste and Recycle Now citizen campaigns, across social media.

Each year in the UK, approximately 6.6 million tonnes of food go to waste from our homes over the twelve months. This is by far the most significant amount of food waste overall, with 70% of the UK’s total food waste coming from our own homes. This costs households around £14 billion a year, or £730 for an average family. It produces 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and what’s more, a whopping 4.5 million tonnes is food that could have been eaten – 2 million tonnes of which wasn’t used in time.

Of this annual total food waste, the amount of poultry thrown away in one year could make 800 million Boxing Day curries. Enough potatoes are binned each year to make roasties for Christmas Day for the whole country, for 48 years. And the amount of carrots thrown away every year by UK homes could feed Santa’s nine reindeers a carrot a day, for nearly 500,000 years!

Each Christmas, thousands of households take time during the festive break to log on to Love Food Hate Waste to look for a tasty recipes to stop leftover festive foods going to waste, and for tips on how to freeze and reuse uneaten items with the annual Ultimate guide to Christmas food planning.

Boxing Day is the busiest day for home chefs looking for inspiration to transform leftovers into tasty stomach fillers. Searches range from recipe ideas to use up classic Christmas staples, to guidance on freezing leftover meat. The Love Food Hate Waste Portion Planner can help save money by guiding people towards the best number of parsnips and other trimmings to serve, no matter the number of guests. The A to Z Storage Guide is the best Christmas present in terms of helping to keep any food in top condition for as long as possible, with WRAP showing earlier this year that fresh produce can stay fresher for longer in the fridge. With refrigerated apples lasting two and a half months longer than those in a fruit bowl!

Poultry is number eight in the top ten most wasted foods in the UK. 100,000 tonnes of poultry end up in the bin every year. Most is chicken, the nation’s favourite meat, but at Christmas it is all about turkey. Leftover turkey can be stored in the fridge for up to two days, but turkeys usually produce more than a couple of days’ worth of leftovers. Freeze the excess turkey and defrost either in the fridge or using the microwave on the defrost setting directly before re-heating. The golden rule? Only re-heat once.

Fresh vegetables and salad are the most wasted food group in the UK. We waste 1.3 million tonnes of perfectly good fresh veggies and salads every year, costing £2.7 billion. Swapping highly wasted fresh foods for frozen options (’swaptions’) could help to reduce food waste – they last for months and you can use as much as you need when you need it. Frozen vegetables (including your brussel sprouts) can be cooked from frozen. Top tip - when preparing fresh veg for freezing, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes and plunge into cold water before freezing.

With the festive season upon us, there are lots of culinary treats to be enjoyed this month and local produce is still coming in fresh from the fields during December. Christmas vegetables will need to be used up so read the latest blog for festive seasonal meal planning inspiration What’s good to eat this month? – December.

Christmas WRAPping

During the festive period – and on any day of the year – you can find out EXACTLY what can and can’t be recycled in your area using Recycle Now’s Recycling Locator. This is the best way to manage the influx of Christmas packaging and wrapping and help Recycle right this Christmas.

Visits to Recycle Now and searches for the ‘twelve most commonly queried items’ rise significantly between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, showing that as a nation we like to have our recycling sorted nice and early in the New Year. By far the most queried Christmas questions is what to do with your Christmas tree, then decorations and packaging, and finally the faulty Christmas lights? Recycle Now expects the same high volume of visits to its Recycling Locator this year, for advice on what and where to recycle – anywhere in the UK.

Top tips for Christmas recycling

  • 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. 
  • If you buy a tree that still has its roots attached, you can plant it out in the garden so that you can enjoy it throughout the year as well as for future Christmases. If you don’t have space for it, or if you’ve bought a cut tree that no longer has its roots, your local council is likely to have a collection point or may even pick up your tree from your home in the New Year (check your local council’s website). Trees can be recycled into wood chips or shredded and composted. If you have a fake tree – this can’t be recycled, but it can be reused! Charities, care homes and so on will often take artificial trees, and if they’re in good condition, they could also be resold at a charity shop or online.
  • Flatten cardboard boxes to make more room in your recycling bin, bag or box. 
  • 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. 

Notes to Editor

WRAP is a climate action NGO working around the globe to tackle the causes of the climate crisis and give the planet a sustainable future. Our vision is a thriving world in which climate change is no longer a problem. We believe that our natural resources should not be wasted and that everything we use should be re-used and recycled. We bring together and work with governments, businesses, and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are used more sustainably. Our core purpose is to help tackle climate change and protect our planet by changing the way things are produced, consumed, and disposed of.