Unwrapping the presents under the Christmas tree is definitely one of the great joys of the Christmas period. Overwhelmed by the feeling of thrill and mystery of holding a beautifully wrapped present in our hands, probably not so many of us think about the impact of all that wrapping and packaging material that will lend in the trash can the next day. However, by doing a little pre-planning, you can cut most of your packaging waste during the holiday season.
Let’s take a look at the numbers first
In Europe, people generally spend almost half of their Christmas budget on gifts. This year, the total retail sales (both online and in-store) during the Christmas season is forecasted to reach 84.7 billion British pounds (99.8 billion euros) in the United Kingdom, making this the largest Christmas season spender, while in Germany, retail spending during Christmas is predicted to reach about 75 billion British pounds (88.4 billion euros).
In Central and Eastern Europe, people are also reaching more and more into their pockets when it comes to presents. According to a recent survey, in Hungary people are planning to spend 25 per cent more money on gifts this year than last year. Imagine all the gift wrap that we need for these presents. If it goes to the landfill the next day, our Christmas present packaging quickly adds up to a monumental amount of waste.
In the EU, the amount of packaging waste generated constantly increased during the past years, reaching 177.4 kilograms per person in 2019. The highest increase was observed for plastic, paper and cardboard packaging waste. Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most wasteful, creating a rise in the volume of waste materials being produced and disposed of during this busy season.
Fortunately, you can reduce your Christmas “waste-footprint” by making some easily applicable changes. Why not start with these easily applicable techniques that will help you to go green and still have beautifully wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree?
Reusing instead of disposing
As a first step, try to cut out single-use items completely and switch to recycled packaging. How can you tell if the gift wrap is recyclable or not? If it’s decorated with foil or glitter, it probably won’t be recyclable. Metallic and heavily laminated wrapping paper should also be thrown away instead of recycling.
There is a simple technique, called a scrunch test, which can help you to decide whether your wrapping paper can be recycled or not. Try to scrunch up the wrapping paper into a ball. If it stays scrunched, it can probably be recycled, otherwise, it has to go into the general waste.
Before recycling, also make sure to remove any sticky tape and decorations such as ribbons and bows as these cannot be recycled.
Get rid of the sticky tape
The “unusual suspect” of your holiday waste is probably the one that keeps your packaging together: the single-use plastic sticky tape. If you want to make this Christmas eco-friendly you should banish the sticky tape completely. You can also replace it with biodegradable alternatives or tie your gifts up with compostable twine, which is not only a sustainable but also a very stylish option.
Try out fabric gift wrapping
If you want to take it a step further, impress your family and friends with the “Furoshiki” – Japanese fabric gift wrapping technique. It’s not as complicated as it sounds plus you don’t even need to box the item beforehand, which cuts out another piece of holiday waste.
Got some leftover gift bags and packaging from the last holiday season? Regifting them with creative touch could be a good option. You probably have many potential gift materials lying around the house that can make your gift unique and personal. For instance, an old shirt can be upcycled into reusable fabric ribbons and bows. Cinnamon sticks, rosemary or dried orange slices can be transformed into a very tasteful addition to your gift box. But if you don’t want to spend so much time crafting, just use the delivery parcels from your last online shopping instead of a new, store-bought gift box. The motto is: reinvent instead of throwing out.
There are a number of other conscious ways to wrap your presents this holiday season and with a bit of pre-planning, you can get one step closer to zero-waste winter holidays.