Gift boxes inside boxes in plastic wrapping and huge amounts of food being thrown away. The annual waste mountain is starting to rise. Overloaded trollies are already leaving supermarkets and it’s a fair bet most contain some food that won’t be eaten.
In an EPA food waste survey, 70% of people said they buy extra food at Christmas ‘just in case’ they have unexpected visitors. Experts advise, however, that instead of overbuying, people should store food properly so that it lasts longer, and use their leftovers. That would ensure enough for surprise guests.
Is there anyone in Ireland who likes Brussels sprouts? Unloved sprouts top the list of unwanted food in homes at Christmas at 32%, followed by meat, 30%, and potatoes, 25%. Stuffing and mince pies are the least likely foods to end up in the waste bin.
Given the large-scale cancellation of Christmas parties and the reluctance of many people to socialise in the unusual ways, because of Covid fears, there’s likely to be more entertaining in homes, generating even more domestic waste.
The seasonal waste, however, is made up largely of paper and packaging in various forms, amounting to 81,000 tonnes last Christmas, according to Repak. This was a 7% increase on the previous Christmas, and there was an even bigger rise in packaging from online sales, due to Covid.
The research also showed that 27% of people bought all their presents online, again leaving more paper and plastic to be disposed of. Online shopping has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, not all packaging is recyclable and much of it will end up in landfills with other types of waste.
We’ll see a continuing online trend this Christmas, creating a boom for courier companies and An Post doing door-to-door deliveries of parcels. Repak estimated that waste from online sales cost EURO 1m to collect and recycle.
All happening at a time when climate change is top of the global agenda, but the environment is taking a hit from increased transport emissions and the cost of landfilling and recycling.
And we’ve said nothing yet about another source of waste - unwanted gifts. For men, we’re told, the most unpopular include pyjamas, slippers, pungent deodorants and socks. Some of the above-mentioned end up post-Christmas in already over-loaded charity shops, or in the bin.
Back to the overflowing trollies leaving the supermarket. Many contain ample supplies of booze. Off-licences are also stocked to capacity, with slabs of beer cans stacked ceiling high.
Rest assured that, unlike the food, none of the drink will go to waste. Traffic at recycling centres, where empty bottles and cans can be deposited, is sure to be busy as the festive season progresses. Slainte!