Christmas is a perfect example of how our commitment to recycling is only skin deep when we come under pressure. And Christmas is a time of pressure: pressure to spend, pressure to impress, pressure to show affluence.
We only have to look at our rubbish bin on Boxing Day to realise how much we have thrown away in 24 hours. What could be recycled instead of chucked? What could have been recycled from last year? What do these gifts we give actually say about our belief in and commitment to recycling.
Every time we give a gift that requires batteries we are buying into the throw-away culture. When we buy an electric appliance to replace a hand-operated one we are increasing our use of power, adding to trash when it eventually breaks down (because modern appliances can rarely be repaired), and often using more water if we need to clean them.
For many, Christmas is a time of excess not environmental care. So I have to applaud my friend who announced on Facebook: “We’re not sending Christmas cards this year. The money has gone to Oxfam, and I know you’ll all be happy to know you’ve helped donate lots of trees, among other things.”
One challenge I feel every year is whether to wrap presents. The cheap printed paper we use is only able to manage one use – sometimes not even holding together long enough for the present to reach the recipient. And once the present is unwrapped, we don’t fold the mountain of paper to use next year. I often wonder if gifts would be better presented in supermarket bags? At least they would be more likely to be recycled.
So what New Year’s resolutions about recycling are you making?
Heather Sylvawood, author and blogger.