Top tips on what to do with all your festive rubbish and Christmas waste

Now our tummies are full and the pressies are opened let’s make sure our bins are not exploding! Here are a few ideas from guest blogger Cat Fletcher on how to be resourceful with festive paper, plastic, food and other stuff.

Christmas waste

Last year, 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper were thrown out in the UK. That’s enough to wrap up the whole city of Brighton and Hove. Make sure you sort through all the festive debris and recycle your paper, or gather up all the gift-wrapping and trimmings and drop off at a scrap store if you’re lucky enough to have one near by.

Scrap stores collate lots of leftover materials and then make them available for creative projects in more than 90 communities around the UK.

Scrap Stores
Paper snowflake at Leeds Scrap Store on Twitter @ScrapLeeds

About 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging was discarded last Christmas. Check your plastics! If there’s a 1 or a 2 inside a little triangle label on the material then it can be easily recycled along with drink bottles — via your local services. It is tricky to find a good destination for all the other plastics, so try to avoid all those blister packets and over-packaged goods in the first place if you can.

There are lots of clever creative people working on new processes to upcycle plastic waste, like these great flip flops made from plastic waste collected from beaches on the south coast of England.

Flip Flopsam by Tanya Dean
Flip-Flopsam and Jetsam by Tanya Dean and Nick Gant from the IF:Lab

Sarah Turner is an artist who upcycles plastics into fabulous new things for the home. She sandblasts, cuts and reconstructs old plastic bottles and turns them into beautiful lights.

Plastic Bottle lamps
The light fantastic: Sarah Turner’s lamps are made from old plastic bottles

If you fancy having a go at upcycling yourself to keep more stuff out of the bin there are lots of instructions here. Crafty projects are a great way to fill in a rainy, cold afternoon with the kids and you should have lots of materials in the house to reuse from your Christmas celebrations – so it won’t burn a hole in your pocket!

You can get more inspiration and post photos of your own upcycled creations here.

Another shocking festive fact is that we throw away 40% of all the turkeys, sprouts and festive food that we buy at Christmas time. Nuts!

Salad dressign frock
Salad dressing: a frock made of greens

Get inspired to use up all your leftovers and check out the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. It’s chock-a-block with great kitchen tips and recipes to reduce food waste — and save you money too.

Old plastic bottles can be made into new things

It is the giving season, so if you have dry, tinned and non-perishable food spare then you can help feed those less fortunate than you by donating to Fare Share (it has depots all over the UK and provides hot cooked meals for the homeless) or drop it off to one of the hundreds of food banks across the UK.

And how could we not mention toys in our festive missive! Forty per cent of all toys bought at Christmas time are thrown away within three months. We’ve all been there — going home with bags of unwanted stuff (from Aunt Gladys and Uncle Bob, the parent’s neighbours, your second cousin removed or even from your nearest and dearest!)

There’s no need to discard all those well-meaning but totally unwanted items gifted with the best of intentions. Don’t throw them in the bin or leave them at the back of the cupboard to languish — let someone else love them! Join a local Freegle group — there are 390 around the UK, they are easy to join and everything is free.

The group will connect you with someone local or a local project that actually wants the fluorescent, oversized snowflake jumper, hula-hoop and macramé kit you’ve been lumbered with.

Remember, it is not waste until you waste it, so let someone else reuse your unwanted stuff. You’ve nothing to lose except the stuff you want to lose!

Cat Fletcher runs an online Freegle reuse group in Brighton and is part of the team building the Brighton Waste House. She is currently compiling an online UK “Reuse Directory”.

You can follow her on Twitter: @FreegleBrighton, @ThisIsFreegle, @WasteHouse, @GiveItForGood