Wrapping paper will be one of the biggest contributors, experts have predicted, with around around 106 square km of it estimated to be used this year. Approximately one fifth of this (19.2 square km) – more than the combined size of all the Royal Parks in London – could end up in landfill.
The estimates, based on annual government figures on waste, come from Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of 26 environment and animal charities, including Greenpeace, the RSPCA and WWF.
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Due to increased awareness of all things green, Christmas recycling rates have actually improved since last year, the charities said. The predicted figure of plastic going to waste was 114,000 tonnes in 2017, compared to 103,000 tonnes this year.
However, there’s no denying the figure is still shocking and the group want to see both the government and businesses making recycling easier.
Chris Tuckett, director of programmes at the Marine Conservation Society and chair of the Link Marine Working Group, said: “None of us want the price of our plastic-wrapped Christmas food or our plastic-packaged children’s toys to be dying wildlife, but that is the reality.
“Consumers want change, they want the choice not to have their food smothered in plastic. But often there is no other option in our supermarkets, and it’s far too complicated to figure out what plastic can be recycled.”
Dr Lyndsey Dodds, head of UK marine policy at WWF, said the first step is for each of us to say “no” to single-use plastic and push the government to make better choices for our world – including the key step of requiring businesses to slash plastic production.
Plastic waste isn’t the only part of Christmas that damages our environment. Separate research found a traditional turkey Christmas dinner has more than double the greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan nut roast with veggie trimmings, and people in the UK this year will receive up to 70 million unwanted gifts – some going directly to landfill.