The most wasteful time of the year: Achieving a greener Christmas

uk christmas waste statistics

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, there’s no doubt about it – it’s a time for sitting around the fire, watching old movies, catching up with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and indulging in food and drink. But there’s also no doubt that Christmas is a very wasteful time of year, with many of our festivities generating refuse.

Whether it’s wrapping paper and gift cards, festive food or unwanted presents, we generate waste in the tonnes over Christmas.

Take a look at our video to see how much is wasted each year.


As shown in the video, Christmas waste statistics highlight that the UK discards:

• 227,000 miles of wrapping paper
• 74 million mince pies
• Over a billion Christmas cards
• 6 million Christmas trees
• 2 million turkeys

That’s an awful lot of waste to be generated over a short period of time!

Aside from the amount of food and products we buy for the festive period leading to an increase in refuse, why else are we wasting so much? Well, confusion and over-buying play a huge part.

Can you recycle wrapping paper?

There’s some confusion over whether wrapping paper can be recycled or not – this is something we mentioned in another post about household recyclables – and this often results in gift paper being sent to landfill.

So, what’s the answer? The majority of wrapping paper is recyclable and will often be collected kerbside by councils. Some councils may prefer you to bring wrapping paper to the local recycling centre, but you can check your council’s website or the Agile@HOME app to find out.

The exception is gift wrap that’s metallic or shiny, has a foil effect or is glittery.

You can also do a quick test at home to see if your paper is recyclable – just scrunch it into a ball and if it keeps the shape, it can be recycled; if it unfolds, it’s not recyclable.

christmas is a wasteful time of year

Festive food waste

Many people overcompensate at Christmas. We buy mounds of food to entertain friends and family – keeping bellies full is all part of the Christmas spirit! But sadly, a lot of this food goes to waste.

We often prepare too much, we don’t always use our leftovers and we neglect to consume food before it goes off.
To combat this, think carefully about what you actually need to buy to feed everyone, rather than what you think you may need. Buying the correct amount can avoid both a waste of food and money, which is a festive win-win.

how much christmas food waste does the UK create
Utilising leftovers is also important. Turn those turkey trimmings into a delicious curry and fry up those veggies for a tasty Boxing Day bubble and squeak!

For food that isn’t wanted or isn’t consumed in time, be sure to pop it in your food caddy instead of general refuse. When sent to landfill, food rots and generates a potent greenhouse gas which is damaging to the environment.

What to do with real Christmas trees?

Real Christmas trees are a hot topic for most councils each Christmas and councils encourage these to be recycled when the festive season draws to a close.

Unlike fake Christmas trees, which cannot be recycled, real trees can be chipped and reused in park areas. An even greener option, if you’ll excuse the pun, would be to opt for a live, potted Christmas tree that can be used every year.

Check the Agile@HOME app or your local council to find out how you can dispose of your real Christmas tree in January.

Enjoy a more environmentally friendly festive season

Will you be enjoying a festive season will less waste? We certainly hope so! Do you have any top tips for generating less waste over Christmas? Find us on Twitter to continue the conversation.

Waste and recycling support for councils

We understand that the combination of bank holidays and an increase in the waste that needs to be collected can create added pressure for a department that might already be under strain – our Agile@HOME app can help.
We can send automated updates to residents, notifying them of any changes to your waste schedule during the festive period.
Our recycling app also informs residents of what can or cannot be recycled in your area.

Download the brochure to find out more.

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