Festive recycling: Have your Christmas cake and eat it too

Every year at Christmas, Google search interest in “recycling” reaches its peak. At the same time, search interest in “sustainability” is at its lowest. ReCircle’s Abbie Robinson investigates.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year

For the British, Christmas has always been synonymous with ‘home’ — a time to look inwards, give thanks for those around us, celebrate health, happiness, food and, of course, have a glass or two of tipple. Thanks to a deep-rooted tradition of togetherness and celebration at this time, people from all walks of life have gathered — at the darkest, and coldest time of year — to celebrate that which matters most: unity.

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A time for giving

Christmas is synonymous with giving and receiving. Naturally, with increased consumption comes a significant sharp rise in waste per household. In 2016 we spent almost £78bn on seasonal shopping in the UK alone — that’s just taking into account gifts, household decorations, food and alcohol. With the average monthly spend per household rising by almost £1,000, just imagine how much extra waste this equates to. Clue: last year it was reported that we threw away just under 108 million rolls of wrapping paper.  

In a recent study conducted for Sky Ocean Rescue, 84% of people interviewed voiced a severe concern for the amount of plastic packaging used for gifts. Of this, 22% suggested that there was “too much waste in their homes over Christmas to be able to recycle all of it”. How can we ensure that we are better equipped to deal with an increase in used materials during this time and, moreover, how can we address and combat the issue of having ‘too much waste in our homes to recycle’ during this period? 

Search interest in “recycling” skyrockets at Christmas

During December, Google search interest for the term “recycling” soars. A clear indication that, whilst we are preoccupied with festivities, we are also hyper-aware of a need to recycle but perhaps do not have access to the knowledge or means to do so.

Whilst this is at no time more evident than Christmas, it is an issue which is symptomatic of domestic recycling as a whole — we are crucially lacking the education and knowledge concerning recycling. When faced with an increase in wrapping, packaging and other used materials, this is exacerbated. How can we simplify the process, and ensure that we are empowered to understand, and therefore maximise, the true value of our used materials?

At the same time, search interest in “sustainability” hits a yearly low

Christmas is known for being the season of excess: indulgent meals, decadent gifts and lavish parties. All good fun, but none of it screams sustainability. Perhaps it’s less a conscious choice, and more so a lack of time — but as Research Director Nick Spencer put its, ‘domesticity and charity, yes, religion and leisure, maybe, but politics and economics? No.’ 

It’s interesting to note, therefore, that whilst interest in “recycling” soars during this period, search interest in the term “sustainability” plummets.

The immediate necessity of recycling renders it tangible, whilst sustainability — a bigger, and more abstract issue — falls into the bracket of ‘political’ issues that we do not wish to consider at Christmas. As think tank ‘Theos’ puts it, ‘our political machine closes down.’ In a survey they conducted in 2011, 2,000 British adults were asked what they thought Christmas was about. Of this 2,000, 66% confirmed that Christmas is not a time where “we should challenge poverty and economic justice.”

That’s not to say that this is a wrong doing on the part of the western world — we have simply set-aside Christmas as a time during which we can unplug from the, quite frankly depressing, economic and political concerns that we are faced with at present. Perhaps, rather than feeling guilty for wanting to enjoy a few weeks away from the political machine, we should look to prevention and preparation instead?

A sustainable Christmas: Have your turkey and eat it too

Whilst it is undeniable that we require education and facilitation to be able to better deal with our valuable materials, there are some simple ways in which we can act to prevent such vast amounts of waste accumulating over the festive period. Here are our top 3: 

Furoshiki methods — the Japanese art of wrapping.

Furoshiki methods — the Japanese art of wrapping.

1. Avoid wrapping paper — the biggest waste culprit — altogether. 

A morning spent knee-deep in Christmas wrapping paper begone — furoshiki, the 14th century Japanese art of wrapping clothes, was revived several years ago in Japan in the hope of reducing dependency on plastic bags. A traditional Japanese cloth-folding technique that allows you to wrap objects of various shapes and sizes in a single piece of cloth, and an easy way to avoid wasteful wrapping.

2. Secret Santa needn’t induce anxiety. 

Ungifted, a new app which provides green and sustainable suggestions for gifting, promises to take away the burden of Secret Santa, and stop us buying wasteful gifts for colleagues and friends. 

3. Hire-a-tree. 

It’s often difficult to ensure that real trees sold during the festive period have been grown sustainably. A good indicator is the FSC or Soil Association logo. A better solution? Rent a tree. Many organisations are now offering tree rental, which means that it can carry on growing once returned. More sustainable, no worry of recycling it post-Christmas. 

But what about the materials that we do inevitably accumulate over Christmas?

Confusion over what can and cannot be recycled is rife, and at no time of the year is this more evident than during December. ReCircle provides a solution to the confusion of recycling, especially at Christmas when we are faced with an overwhelming excess of used materials. With our sensor checking technology, frantically googling ‘how to recycle at Christmas’ will no longer be necessary — the ReCircle appliance will tell you what can and cannot be recycled.

Video: ReCircle explained in 3 minutes

Moreover, ReCircle will never let you put the wrong thing in to the recycling. It will keep plastics, glass and metals separate so that it can wash, process and compact them – producing valuable, 100% pure closed-loop recycled products ready for manufacturers to purchase and use again in new products.


ReCircle’s mission is to change the way we recycle. We want everyone to play a part in managing their own used materials effectively. Learn more about the ReCircle system and join us in our mission to make the circular economy a reality.

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