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Waste Less, Save More at Christmas

Christmas is the most wasteful time of the year. During the festive period, families in the UK waste 30% more than they do through the whole year. The Christmas waste stats show an ever-increasing amount of waste collected during the festive season, especially food, packaging, wrapping paper, gifts and Christmas decorations.

In this page, we’ve put together a whole range of handy Christmas tips and information to help north London residents to waste less and save more money this Christmas.

Christmas gifts

A great way to reduce waste at Christmas is to make a home-made gift, buy something second-hand, or buy an ‘experience’ gift. We have a dedicated section on our website full of gift ideas. Click here to view it.

What can be recycled?

Most Christmas waste can be recycled in north London but there are a few things to watch out for:

  •        Any cards or paper with glitter on them. This is because glitter is hard to remove and when the recycling gets passed on to a paper mill, they don't want bits of glitter appearing in their end product.
  •       Metallic or glittery wrapping paper that springs back when you scrunch it. This is made from a combination of paper and thin metal and it would require a lot of energy to separate the two materials. From an environmental and financial perspective, it would not be worth recycling it.
  •           Polystyrene. This material can be found in most packaging but recycling it would require a lot of energy. As with metallic wrapping paper, it is simply not worth it from a financial and environmental perspective.

Reducing food waste at Christmas

During the festive period British families waste up to 30% more food than the rest of the year.  More than £64 million worth of Christmas dinners go uneaten every year. Our top food waste reduction tips will help you reduce your waste during the festive season:

  1.      Make space in the freezer in advance. The freezer is a fantastic food waste reduction tool, acting as a pause button - as long as food is within its 'use by' date, it will stay fresh for up to six months in the freezer. Almost any food can be frozen (just not cream and salad).
  2.      Try to plan meals in advance and stick to your shopping list. This should help avoid food from being forgotten about and going past its 'use by' date.
  3.            Use up leftovers. Our North London Food Lovers' Cookbook is full of recipes which can transform Christmas leftovers into a delicious new meal. You can also just search online, listing your ingredients, and the search engine will show a whole list of recipes.

 Check out our food waste reduction pages for more tips to help you make the most of the food you love.

Gift wrapping and decorations

Each Christmas as much as 88 square kilometres of wrapping paper ends up in UK rubbish bins, that’s enough to cover either Brighton or Swansea. If you are looking for more environmentally friendly options this season, please follow these top tips

  • If you are buying presents, try to choose items without excessive packaging.
  • When gift-wrapping, consider reusing old wrapping paper, or use material as an alternative, following the Japanese furoshiki technique.
  •   If you have the space, buy a living Christmas tree, which can be left in its pot outside for the rest of the year. You can also hire a Christmas tree - just search online and you will find companies that deliver and collect a live tree.
  • Buy good quality decorations which can be used year after year. You could also try making your own decorations, such as bunting or paper chains from old magazines or newspapers.
  • Try making your own cards or gift tags by cutting up last year’s Christmas cards and using other materials such as pieces of shiny card from packaging and images from magazines.

Recycling your Christmas tree

There are lots of ways to recycle your Christmas tree. If you have a garden waste service, you can chop the branches and trunk and put it out for recycling in the normal way with the rest of your garden waste (see this link for more details). You can take it to one of north London's reuse and recycling centres which are open as usual apart from 25 and 26 December and 1 January, when they are closed.

The north London borough councils provide specific arrangements for Christmas tree recycling. You can find all the relevant information regarding Christmas trees collection here:

  • Barnet will offer Christmas trees collections between 6 January and 1 February. Real Christmas trees cut in half will be collected if left at the boundary of your property by 6am on collection day.
  • Camden will open 20 collection sites set up for the first two weeks of 2020 for Christmas trees. Camden will also offer collections of real Christmas trees through Garden waste collections and special collection services. 
  • Hackney will offer tree collections from your home between 6 January and 17 January, place your tree with the rest of your rubbish and recycling. Normal garden waste collections will be suspended for this period, with the standard service resuming on 20 January.
  • Christmas trees can be recycled a number of ways in Haringey, with the bark shavings then being used in council gardens. It is essential that trees are cut into smaller pieces otherwise they cannot be collected.
  • Islington Council collects and recycles residents' Christmas trees from collection points, or directly from council estates and properties. Islington will offer several drop-off points in parks between 2 January and 21 January 2020.
  • Waltham Forest will collect real Christmas trees with your garden waste collections from the 27 December until the end of January.

The clean up

When all the celebrations are over, you can still do your bit by making use of the many recycling facilities in north London. Our reuse and recycling centres are closed on 25 and 26 December and 1 January, except for Hornsey Street which is open on 26 December.

Waste electrical items, books or clothing and textiles can be recycled. If you have presents that you don’t need, why not sell or give them away online, or donate them to a charity?