What happens to all that Christmas Packaging?

We all know that on Christmas Day it's all about the packaging; from the beautifully wrapped presents worthy of Harrods' window dressers; from the mounds of plastic encasing all the toys delivered by Santa to the foil trays crafty Nigella uses to roast her spuds.

But at Christmas how much of all that packaging goes to recycling? Last year over 30,000 tonnes of household rubbish was created in London alone with 6,000 tonnes of food waste. Over 1.5 million turkeys were devoured and enough wrapping paper used to cover the circumference of the equator!

Recycling this waste not only saved money but reduced carbon emissions, as Edie Waste Magazine reported last year, ‘if every additional wine and sherry bottle, mincemeat and cranberry sauce jar was recycled, London could save an estimated 530 tonne of carbon – equivalent to taking 195 cars off the road for a year’.

The EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC (to use its full title) deals with the problems of packaging waste. The Directive requires all member states to meet targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste.

It also encourages producers, designers and manufacturers to use recycled packaging materials in the manufacturing of other products and to minimise the packaging volume and weight where possible. Designers are also required to design packaging so that it can be recycled.

With all this in mind, it’s likely that most packaging, certainly from UK suppliers, is already designed with recycling in mind. Those plastic ties and Barbie boxes, wrapping papers and foil trays can all be recycled, put them in your recycling waste.

And left over food can also be recycled using anaerobic digestion and turned into a more cost effective form of agricultural fertilizer.

Packaging also plays an important role – it’s not simply a puzzle box for reaching the new Star Wars action figure on Christmas Day. Packaging has been purposefully designed to protect its contents, making sure it reaches you intact.

With food, its often designed to prolong its shelf life and without packaging more often than not we would end up throwing it in the bin. Research shows that a wrapped cucumber lasts more than three times as long as an unwrapped one. It will also lose just 1.5 per cent of its weight through evaporation after 14 days, compared with 3.5 per cent in just three days for an exposed cucumber – which means less soggy cucumbers going in the bin.

So this Christmas don’t curse the packaging as the wrapping paper piles up on the floor round the Christmas tree, scoop it up and put it in your recycling bin.



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