Brits throw away £26m of waste every year at Christmas

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a large plastic trashbin overflowing with garbage and discarded Christmas paper lights bows etc
Brits throw away 275,613 tonnes of Christmas waste every year. Photo: Getty

Brits throw away 275,613 tonnes of Christmas waste every year, equivalent to £26m ($35m) spent on disposing of festive rubbish sent to landfill, according to new research by Mattress Online.

The weight of the UK’s Christmas waste is mostly made up of Christmas trees, as three quarters of Brits send their tree to landfill. This amounts to 12,000 tonnes in trees thrown away each year, coming to £1.1m.

The UK also discards 12,500 tonnes of Christmas decorations per year, amounting to £1.2m in landfill, including 68,488 miles of Christmas lights.

Two-thirds of Brits end up throwing out some of their Christmas dinner, amounting to 50,544 tonnes of food waste — equivalent to £4.8m in landfill costs.

Leftover mince pies alone weigh over 4,800 tonnes, at landfill that would be £452,000 in waste, while Brits also throw away 2,000 tonnes of cheese, worth £188,000.

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Discarded food packaging is also a problem, with 141,525 tonnes are disposed of each year, costing £13.3m at landfill. Plastic packaging and glass are the biggest causes of waste, but drink cans follow closely behind with 7,500 tonnes of aluminium cans thrown into landfill, totalling £700,000.

Binned gift wrapping and Christmas cards equate to £6.7m spent at landfill. Christmas cards are the worst offender, with 30,000 tonnes tossed out every year, which is the equivalent of £2.8m in landfill costs. This is followed by 17,444 tonnes of wrapping paper discarded in the UK, totalling £1.6m.

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10 festive eco-friendly alternatives from environmental charity Friends of the Earth:

  1. Opt for solar-powered outdoor lights to save energy

  2. Use brown paper and twine for on-trend, eco wrapping

  3. Send e-cards or donate what you would have spent on cards to charity

  4. Purchase loose food where possible to reduce packaging

  5. Be creative with leftovers — consider a Boxing Day turkey curry

  6. Buy or rent a real tree from a UK supplier, like The Christmas Forest

  7. See if your local council will recycle your tree for you

  8. Make lists for foods and gifts and stick to them

  9. Buy rechargeable batteries for toys and electricals

  10. Go for green gift alternatives like a grow-your-own plant kit

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