For shoppers and businesses alike, sustainability has been a major focus of consumer culture in 2020. But while we’re more familiar than ever with concepts like carbon footprint and circular design, we often struggle to find realistic ways of applying sustainable living ideas to our daily lives. For many, reducing the amount of plastic we use is an achievable way to minimise our personal carbon footprint and make a small contribution to a cleaner planet.

It’s certainly something that many people will be focusing on in the lead up to Christmas this year as plastic and other waste around the holiday season can seem almost unavoidable.

From the tape and paper we use to wrap gifts, to the baubles we hang off our Christmas trees — the season has become synonymous with excessive amounts of plastic in both obvious and more insidious forms. Sadly, much of it ends up in landfill. Last year, Wayst estimated that 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown out, rather than recycled, during the holiday period.

This may be because we’re not always sure what can and can’t be recycled. A 2017 report by FlyResearch for Sky Ocean Rescue found that 60% of people were mistakenly recycling shiny and glittery wrapping paper.

But fear not, there are plenty of things we can do to cut back on the amount of plastic we use this holiday season, made easier by the fact that retailers are increasingly adopting plastic-free shopping solutions as well.
After all, we all have a role to play.


A great way to avoid plastic this Christmas is to get crafty and make gifts, wrapping and decorations yourself! Head to Pinterest or check out hashtags like #PlasticFreeChristmas on social media to search for creative ideas this season. You’ll find tree decorations made from dried citrus fruit, newspaper chains and bunting made from cards, as well as simple recipes for homemade jams, pickles, candles, beauty products, liqueurs and so much more. The key to DIY is starting early to avoid the Christmas panic towards the end of the month!

While there are so many ways to minimise plastic use this Christmas, it’s almost impossible to be 100% plastic-free sometimes. That’s why it’s important to know where and how to dispose of your Christmas rubbish in a responsible way. Recycle Now is a useful tool to help you understand what can and can’t be recycled to help demystify the issue. You can also find more information on your local waste collection services through council websites and location-specific apps.

Planet Friendly Gifting

When it comes to choosing presents, there’s an abundance of independent businesses that are disrupting the market with sustainable and ethical alternatives for almost every product you can imagine. Look to online retailers like Buy Me Once, a platform that sells only long lasting and hard-wearing products with the simple goal of breaking the cycle of planned obsolescence.

Accessories are a fail-safe, albeit slightly cliched, gift idea for Christmas, be it a warm scarf, wooly socks or even a pair of glasses. Coral Eyewear is a brand using ECONYL® to create sunglasses and spectacles with circularity at the core. Creating infinitely recyclable glasses, Coral Eyewear offers incentives to encourage customer participation in their circular business model. The glasses are also shipped using responsible packaging solutions and impact-free delivery to offset carbon emissions.

There are many other brands approaching the usage of regenerated nylon in their products it’s worth checking out while looking for your Christmas gift ideas. For example, have a look at SPELL from Australia for handmade swimwear made of ECONYL® yarn, 4SEA for sailing clothes, A O I F E ® from Irland for everyday bags and backpacks, and the list is much longer.

Alternative Wrapping and Decorations

There are plenty of plastic accoutrements that we should be aware of when it comes to holiday season preparation. Wrapping paper is one element that is rarely saved from the bin, but you may be surprised to find that it often contains plastics, making it unsuitable for the recycling bin too. If your wrapping paper is shiny, it’s probably coated in plastic, and if it contains glitter (which are essentially microplastic) you also won’t be able to recycle it. To find out whether or not you can recycle your wrapped paper, WRAP recommends the Scrunch Test. If you can scrunch up the paper into a ball, without it springing back into place, it can be recycled. Simple!

Alternatively, why not forage around the house for wrapping alternatives? Reusable, waste-free options include silky scarves from charity shops, old newspapers, saved pieces of fabric or old cloth tote bags, there are so many great ideas out there to try.

Another unlikely plastic culprit are Christmas cards. According to Wayst, an estimated 1 billion Christmas cards ended up in the bin after the festive season last year. While most cards are actually recyclable, watch out for cards that have glitter, plastic bows, tape and a plastic protective sleeve and opt for recycled paper if you can. There are plenty of creative alternatives to throwing your cards away — why not reuse them as shopping lists, gift tags or even tree ornaments for next year? Alternatively, send a digital card and forgo the paper altogether! Platforms like Paperless Post allow users to create themed cards that spread holiday cheer without the waste.

Decorations are another element of your Christmas that contain a lot of plastic — tinsel, baubles, lights, Christmas crackers and all the little toys inside, as well as artificial trees, of course. It’s a good idea to consider these an investment that you’ll keep and reuse for many years to come. Buying proper storage containers for your decorations will keep them in mint condition and avoid accidental breakages, while buying the best quality lights for your tree that you can afford will ensure you’re not having to replace them every year.

Attempting to have a plastic free Christmas shouldn’t feel like a chore — by putting a bit of time and research into minimizing plastic consumption, it can leave more room for creativity, heart and personality in your festive season.

Author: Megan Doyle

Next Article