Don’t let Christmas be a Waste of time — recycle

BOY do we know how to party at Christmas — Irish people gobble some five million boxes of chocolates, glug 49m bottles of beer and 20m soft drinks and distribute an estimated 12m gifts over the festive season.

In fact, if we placed the beer bottles we consume end to end we’d have enough to cover the route from Ireland to Lapland and back — five times over.

We use an estimated 6m rolls of wrapping paper — about the same weight as 94,240 Christmas trees — for the average €500 worth of gifts purchased by each household, according to Repak, the not-for-profit scheme for recycling used packaging..

An eye-watering 70,000 tonnes of packaging waste, or 35 kilos of waste, is generated per household.

So yes, we do need to be more conscious about how we dispose of our used packaging at Christmas — and it’s not all torn gift-wrap, points out Repak spokesman Darrell Crowe:

“Food and drink packaging is also a very big element of the Christmas waste packaging and it can overshadow the amount of packaging used on Christmas gifts,” he adds — in fact, the Christmas spend on food and drink alone is an estimated €300, which adds up to a lot of packets, boxes and bags.

However, we seem to be getting better at how we manage it — Repak reports a 6.5 fold increase in Christmas household packaging recycling rates since 2001.

It aims to collect and recycle around 37,000 tonnes of used packaging this Christmas, an initiative which could save 46,000 tonnes of carbon, the equivalent, says Crowe, of taking nearly 30,000 cars off the road for a whole year.

And let’s not forget all those batteries we use in our laptops and phones, and the mountains of electronic toys delivered by Santa or presented by generous aunts, uncles and grandparents, says Elizabeth O’Reilly, campaigns manager for WEEE Ireland, the compliance scheme for electrical and battery recycling.

The average household contains more than 110 batteries at any one time. “All of these add up to a lot of waste batteries over the year,” says Elizabeth — last year WEEE Ireland recycled 472 tonnes of portable waste batteries.

Research shows that one in five people still put batteries into general waste which, one could quip, is a real waste because WEEE Ireland donates money to the Laura Lynn hospice charity for every battery it collects.

Last year’s battery collection campaign raised €45,000 for the hospice, says O’Reilly. So you don’t have to give money to charity this Christmas; handing back a few used batteries means WEEE Ireland will donate them to the Laura Lynn Hospice charity on your behalf.

“Christmas time is the heaviest use and the busiest collection period — people are buying and using more batteries around Christmas time than any other time of the year because of the arrival of new toys and appliances,” O’Reilly says, adding that people often do a kind of ‘spring clean’ around this time of year, disposing of gadgets that are no longer working and getting new batteries for torches and other mobile devices:

“Around this time of year we advise people to look at items containing batteries and see if they are still working. Check any gadgets, tools and toys and see if the batteries in them need replacing.” If the batteries not working, she advises keeping them in a special battery recycling box in your house in a dry cool place until you have time to bring them to the battery box in your local big supermarket.

“Every retailer that sells batteries is obliged to take them back for recycling and the WEEE Ireland blue (battery collection) box is very prominent.”

Last year WEEE Ireland collected and recycled more than 30% of batteries sold in Ireland. They need to increase that to 45% by 2015 to comply with EU regulations.

If you are doing a sort of Christmas clean-out, and you find yourself wondering what to do with that old chest of drawers or the pink silk suit you wore once to your brother’s wedding, it might be worth giving Ballymun’s Rediscovery Centre a call.

Your old chest of drawers may be deemed suitable for ‘upcycling’ and resale, but the centre will also restore and repair furniture to order:

“We restore and repair furniture for customers and we also ‘upcycle’ furniture, that people don’t want,” says spokeswoman Tara Singleton.

“We repair, polish, refurbish and put it up for sale, though we are selective about what we take.”

The work is done by people on Community Employment Schemes under the supervision of experienced managers and the revamped furniture is sold at the Rediscovery Eco store at Santry Cross in Ballymun.

Meanwhile, their fully qualified bicycle mechanics can recycle and renovate bicycles which can also be customised on demand.

* For further hints and tips on Xmas recycling visit:

Helpful tips to reduce waste

- Avoid buying over-packaged items and re-use wrapping paper, ribbons or old fabrics

- Make the wrapping part of your Christmas gift — for example, wine bottle holders made from re-used fabric

- Dispose of used batteries by placing them in the collection box in your local supermarket

- If you have a real Christmas tree recycle it at one of the many designated Christmas tree recycling centres around the country. Check opening hours and locations with your local authority or use the recycling facility search on or on the Recyclemore app.

- Take the time to check when your Christmas bin collection takes place and ask a neighbour to leave out and bring in your bin if you are away.

- Ensure you’re using your recycling bins correctly by visiting – according to Repak 47% of people are uncertain about what should go into dry household recycling.


- Hold onto your used bottle and jars at this peak period of consumption. These can be stored externally and need not be immediately recycled — relieving pressure on the recycling collection infrastructure.

- Use reusable boxes or bags for bringing your bottles or cans to bring to the recycling centre/ bottle bank.

- If your usual bottle bank is full use the Recyclemore app to locate the nearest alternate. According to Repak about 67% of people are unsure of the facilities in their area.

- Do not leave boxes or used bottles on ground at recycling centres. This will just slow the collections and constitutes littering which is prosecutable.

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