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How to recycle Christmas

PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:39 06 July 2010

Tara Greaves

Never mind the night before Christmas, it is the day after that the rubbish mounts up with the discarded packaging from longed-for presents, bottles from the Big Day celebrations and an assortment of other waste waiting to be dealt with.

Never mind the night before Christmas, it is the day after that the rubbish mounts up with the discarded packaging from longed-for presents, bottles from the Big Day celebrations and an assortment of other waste waiting to be dealt with.

Environment correspondent TARA GREAVES brings you a guide to being greener this festive season.

It might be a time for giving but there is one present the planet can do without - more waste.

At Christmas we throw away more than at any other time of the year but this festive season people are being encouraged to think Reduce, Reuse and Recycling before resorting to the bin.

And while in Norfolk our recycling rate is amongst the best in the country there is always more that can be done to avoid yuletide excess.

Research commissioned by Norwich-based company May Gurney shows that two in three British adults are committed to recycling more waste this Christmas than at other time of the year.

In the East of England, 91pc of households say they will recycle wine bottles and cans, 86pc say they will recycle Christmas cards and 84pc intend recycling other packaging.

But what more can be done to stop our Christmas excess leaving the planet with a festive hangover?

First, consider these festive facts:

Each year in the UK, we throw away an estimated 3 million tonnes of rubbish over the festive period.

We use enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon over Christmas.

500 tonnes of fairy lights are thrown out - but most can be recycled at your local recycling centre.

We send 1billion Christmas cards - that is 17 for every man, woman and child.

We use 750 million bottles and glass containers and 500 million drinks cans over the holiday, up to 30pc more than normal.

And that is before you add the old toys and gadgets that will be superseded by shiny new models bought as presents.

The good news is that, as part of the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations, virtually any product that has a plug, uses batteries, needs recharging or has a wheelie-bin logo crossed out on it can be recycled for free at any of Norfolk's 19 recycling centres.

But, according to Dan Jacobs, household waste officer at Norfolk County Council, not everything needs to be thrown away or even recycled.

He said: “One of the best approaches to reducing waste is to re-use, so think about which items you can save from the bin or recycling centre all together. Five of the county's recycling centres now have re-use shops where people can bring good quality, unwanted non-electrical household items, such as board games, books, DVDs and even bicycles. The goods are then re-sold and some of the profits are donated to local charities and community projects. This prevents waste going to landfill and supports good causes too.”

Eat, drink and be merry, by all means, but think about what you can do to cut down on waste this year.

Top tips.

Make friends with your freezer to reduce food waste. Under catering is a host's worst nightmare. But the result is that we tend to overbuy at this time of year, and end up with a surplus of food - and an unnecessary dent in our pocket. In the run up to Christmas, visit your freezer more often to make room for post-festive leftovers. Invest in more airtight food containers or freezer bags, so that you can freeze as much as possible when Christmas is over. Love Food Hate Waste's website (www.lovefoodhatewaste.com) is an excellent resource for leftover recipes and information about what foods can be successfully frozen. There's also a handy portion calculator for helping to buy and cook the right amount in the first place.

Give unwanted items a second life. If you're having a clear out to make space for guests, or new presents, give unwanted items a second life with a new owner and help keep them out of landfill. Donate them to charity shops, jumble sales or furniture re-use centres. Use Freegle (www.norfolk-freegle.org.uk) or visit one of the county's five re-use shops at recycling centres at King's Lynn, Hempton, Mayton Wood, Caister and Ketteringham. The re-use shops can also be great sources for unusual presents or bargains.

Have fun and get a new wardrobe by organising a “swishing” or clothes swapping party this festive season. Visit www.swishing.co.uk for rules and inspiration.

Take unwanted electrical items to your nearest recycling centre. Almost 100pc of the components and materials used in old electrical items can be recycled, so do not be tempted to put small unwanted electricals in your kerbside waste bin, take them to your recycling centre or check whether the shop you bought them from will take them back for recycling.

Check the dates of your holiday kerbside bin collections. Keep information leaflets handy, or contact your district, city or borough council to make sure you know when your bin will be collected this festive season.

Re-use cards and wrapping paper. The glitter and foil on cards means you can't put them into your kerbside recycling collection bin. Save and re-use wrapping paper and gift bags where possible, and make cards into present tags for next year.

Cards can be taken to collection points at Marks and Spencer, WH Smith or TK Maxx and the Woodland Trust will plant new trees in return for them.

The big difference this year is that if people visit the trusts web site (www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/cards) and pledge to recycle, they can choose the planting region for the trees they are helping to fund.

Make your own cloth bags using leftover material or old curtains instead of using plastic. Find out how at www.morsbags.com.

There will always be some food waste (vegetable peels for example) - consider starting a compost heap or getting a wormery to cut down on what is sent to landfill and come up with a useful product for your plants too.

Recycling Centres in Norfolk.

Recycling centres are the place to go to dispose of bulkier items such as your real tree, a now-redundant and replaced old bike, or large empty boxes - not to mention the abundance of empty glass bottles and cans. All of these can be recycled with one trip to your nearby recycling centre.

Sarah Chapman, regional operations director for May Gurney's Norfolk recycling centres, said:

“January is one of the busiest times of the year for the recycling centres.

“We can accept a wide range of materials, including small Christmas trees and even unwanted presents.”

The company works in partnership with Norfolk County Council to operate and manage 18 household waste recycling centres across the county, handling more than 60,000 tonnes of waste annually.

With a target recycling rate of 60pc new recycling initiatives are being introduced to help increase the performance of the county.

For a full list of what can be recycled where visit www.norfolk.gov.uk or call 0344 800 8004.

At this time of year, the recycling centres are open from 8am to 4pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Items that can be taken include:

Cans and glass.

Cardboard and paper including wrapping paper (not the foil variety).

Aluminium foil.

Electrical goods.

Batteries.

Green waste - including small Christmas trees.

Textiles - the centres will even take your bad-taste Christmas pullovers.

Used cooking oil.

Doorstep recycling in Norfolk:

Steve Jenkins, local authority contacts manager at the Norfolk Environmental Waste Services recycling plant at Costessey, near Norwich - where all the household recyclables collected by the city and district councils go for sorting - said: “The big issue for us is Christmas cards and wrapping paper. With cards there is a problem because they often have glitter on them or sometimes have a battery if they are musical or talking cards. Because of this, we would prefer that people donate their cards to the Woodland Trust in the New Year. They are set up to deal with them and it helps the charity.

“As for wrapping paper, unless people know for sure it is pure paper rather than foil we would prefer it was not recycled.”

Mr Jenkins said Christmas and the New Year is their busiest period, for obvious reasons, and that they had to work hard to deal with the extra waste created but he said that the market for many of the goods was recovering.

“As far as we are concerned we started to see a recovery as far back as January or February. That is because, particularly in terms of baled products, are very good quality which there is a market for - people are queuing up for our plastic bottles,” he said.

Broadland Council is running food waste collection trial for some of its residents which will be extended from 5,700 households to 10,000 in the New Year.

Paul Smith, Broadland Council's environmental contracts officer, said: “About 25pc of the waste which goes to landfill is food. That's likely to increase significantly over Christmas. One of the most important things people can do is make sure they don't buy a lot more than they can store and eat.”

Recycling bin wants:

Newspapers and magazines.

Junk mail.

Card and cardboard.

Food and drink cans (but no other).

Plastic bottles (no other sort of plastic, for example yogurt pots).


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