Why it's high time we ditched cheapo Christmas crackers…and the shiny wrapping paper, and the plastic table cloth, and the Christmas napkins, and…
Families across Britain could give a huge present to the environment by dumping shop-bought Christmas crackers this year.
That's the opinion of one of the country's waste and recycling experts, which says that the huge majority of treats from crackers are single use plastics, whose life is effectively over by the time everybody is sleeping off the Christmas pudding.
UK waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk says that the Festive Season creates more plastic waste than any time of year, most of which goes to landfill or is burned – all a horrifying waste of money, resources and energy.
"Instead," says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, "families could choose a sustainable Christmas, just by using a bit of imagination and ditching the single-use plastics".
The single-use Christmas
Its estimated that over 40 million Christmas crackers end up in the bin on the 25th of December.
BusinessWaste.co.uk asked 1100 families about their Christmas habits when it comes to dealing with the day's rubbish:
• A staggering 99% said they simply threw Christmas cracker gifts in the bin at the end of the day
• Some 81% said they used a plastic table cloth which is thrown away at the end of the Festive Season
• 78% said that their Christmas wrapping paper just goes straight into a big plastic bag and is jammed into the household waste bin
• Even Christmas table napkins aren't immune – 45% said they threw out the unused ones in the New Year
"With tens of millions of us celebrating Christmas, the scale of unnecessary waste is appalling," BusinessWaste.co.uk's Mark Hall says. "When you think what goes into a Christmas cracker – the plastic toy, the snap, the shiny paper hat, the ribbons – it's all wasted. And millions of these are pulled and immediately binned every Christmas Day.
"And that's before you factor in the fact that millions upon millions of these things are shipped halfway across the world from China. It's madness," he says.
The crackers amount of waste goes far beyond crackers, Hall says. For example: Most gift wrapping paper is not recyclable because it contains plastics to give it that lovely sheen people love to see under their trees.
"And there's something about Christmas that makes people forget their good recycling habits," he says, "Everything seems to get stuffed into the household general waste bin over Christmas. Drink? Gluttony? Laziness? Who knows why."
The sustainable Christmas
So, what can families do to avoid needless waste this Festive Season?
It's simple: Just use a little brainpower to cut out the single-use plastics.
• Ditch the shop-bought crackers and make your own. All it takes is the middle out of a loo roll, a bit of tissue paper, and a bit of imagination for a gift and a joke. Tip: Raid the Quality Street tub.
"Get the kids to make them the week before the big day," says Hall, "It'll add to the fun when granny gets a handful of Werther's Originals and a joke about an elephant's bottom".
• Don't use printed Christmas wrapping paper which can't be recycled. Use plain brown paper instead, or a large roll of white drawing paper. Believe us, your tree will look like something out of a lifestyle magazine on Christmas morning.
As one family told us: "We use gift bags that get used again and again every Christmas and birthday. It's our family in-joke and it saves us hours wrapping presents – and nothing gets thrown out!"
• Plastic table cloth? Are you mad? Get a real table cloth that you wash in the New Year and use again for Christmases yet to come. Make it a dark colour that doesn't show the stains.
Business Waste's Mark Hall: "As you can see, most of these ideas require very little change at all, and won't make your Christmas any less enjoyable.
"In fact, you'll be giving the world a Christmas present, knowing you'll be joining many other families choosing to do exactly the same thing by slashing their Christmas waste and kicking the single-use plastic out of the Festive Season".
And you never know, with everybody pulling in the same direction it might even prevent the inevitable Christmas arguments. But we can't help you there.