It’s December, the season of twinkling lights, wrapping up warm and eating your own body weight in chocolate. But it’s also the time of year when plastic packaging goes into overdrive. Even if you manage to avoid buying plastic presents, supermarkets and other retailers bombard us with plastic at every turn – satsumas in plastic nets, shiny coated wrapping paper and seemingly endless amounts of glitter.
Ultimately it’s down to retailers and governments to take action to stop the production of so much pointless plastic. UK supermarkets produce over 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year and if we’re going to stop the flow of plastic into our oceans this must be drastically reduced.
But if you fancy taking steps to reduce your personal plastic footprint this Christmas, this doesn’t mean cutting down on festive sparkle.
Here are 9 ways you can dodge unnecessary plastic this Christmas:
1. Get creative with wrapping
Shiny wrapping paper may look good under the tree but unfortunately most wrapping paper is non-recyclable (because of the plastic involved in making it oh so shiny). Opt for plain brown paper and jazz it up with fabric ribbon or even better, seek out reusable options like fabric wraps or gift boxes and bags that can be used again next year.
2. Opt for loose fruit and veg and use refills where possible
Our recent survey revealed that the top ten supermarkets in the UK are all failing to take bold enough action on plastic pollution. You can sign the petition telling supermarkets to ditch single-use plastic packaging here but whilst they’re getting their act together, avoid the packaged stuff and choose loose options where possible. Some supermarkets will even let you bring your own containers to the deli counter.
3. Choose tap water
The UK uses over 35 million plastic bottles every day. Tap water in the UK is safe to drink and for when you’re out and about there’s even an app that tells you where you can refill your bottle for free.
4. Tone down the glitter
It pains us to say it but glitter is not good news for the environment. It’s effectively tiny pieces of plastic, which can end up being washed down the sink and eventually end up in our rivers and oceans. Whist glitter is definitely not one of the major causes of plastic pollution, it’s still plastic going into the ocean, so avoid glittery make up and cards and stick to sparkle that won’t go down the plughole.
5. Spread the word
If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift for one of those hard-to-buy-for people, consider giving a gift to charity on their behalf. Homemade treats and experiences (like theatre tickets or offering to cook someone a meal) are also a good shout. Or if you’re short on time how about buying everyone reusable coffee cups? (Spoiler alert if you’re reading this mum and dad.)
6. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags
The introduction of the plastic bag ban in England has seen a massive 85% drop in their use. Carrying a bag has become the norm for many people but if you’re hitting the shops or doing your big festive supermarket shop, don’t forget to take extra!
7. Expose supermarket’s worst examples of pointless festive plastic
We’ve already mentioned supermarkets’ enormous plastic footprint, but what can you do when you spot those frustratingly over-packaged festive items during your weekly shop? Tell the world about them! Take a photo and post it on Twitter using #PointlessPlastic (don’t forget to tag the supermarket.) We’ll be sharing the best (worst!) examples and asking people to vote for the most outrageous. By exposing the worst festive plastic offenders, we’ll be showing supermarkets that their use of plastic is unacceptable, and that their customers have had enough.
8. Avoid disposable cutlery if possible
For some people, the festive period can mean a non-stop flow of guests descending on your house. Whilst disposable cutlery can be incredibly useful in these situations, it’s also not ideal for the environment. Asking every guest to bring their own cutlery might be a step too far for you but consider asking one of your guests or a neighbour if you can borrow some from them. You could also consider investing in some lightweight reusable plastic cutlery to bring out on these occasions. And if all else fails and you end up with 5 extra guests and not enough forks, you can still ask people to reuse their cutlery for different courses (just don’t forget to rinse them – we can’t recommend sprouts and mince pies as a great flavour combo.)
9. Don’t forget your reusable cup
2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK and less than 1 in 400 are recycled. Whether you’re warming your hands at a festive fair or meeting a friend for a catch up and a coffee – don’t forget to take your reusable cup (some cafes even offer a discount if you bring your own cup.)
If you haven’t already, please sign the petition calling on supermarkets to stop using single-use plastic packaging. Already signed? Please share with your friends and family!