Taking simple steps to have a low-waste Christmas

Taking simple steps to have a low-waste Christmas

Christmas is Somerset’s most wasteful time, when much that should be recycled – including thousands of turkey carcasses – gets buried in landfill. But it is also a great opportunity for you and all your family to waste less, recycle more and save plenty of money.

Here is how to get the best from Christmas in food and drink, cards and gifts, tree and decoration, including saving time and money, and recycle all you can as a great start to 2018. Plus: what to do if there is a white (or worse) Christmas.

Faced with their family’s festive mess, some fill endless black plastic sacks, but why not take these simple steps to prevent rubbish mountains:

  • Get it gone, now: declutter and tidy each room before Christmas, take all recycling – including all the items often missed form bathrooms and bedrooms – and rubbish to a recycling site, and sell anything good, donate it to a charity shop, or regift it.
  • Eat the freezer: save money and make space for all that Christmas food, and then for leftovers. Check the Love Food Hate Waste campaign for tips on menus, portions and shopping. Less haste makes less waste; check out what meals – including everything for Christmas lunch – can be prepared and cooked or part-cooked early.
  • Wish lists, insist: make every gift a wanted gift. Buy better, from high quality that lasts to digital, home-made and experiences. Give the best of all: time and skills to help with tasks. Wrap smart: use paper that can be recycled (or get creative with newspapers, magazine, even old maps) and not plastic metallic wrap that cannot. Use and reuse gift bags or boxes.
  • Decorate with love and nature: not plastic tat. A natural tree in a pot that can enhance your garden all the rest of the year is a good option. Use garden greenery, and compost it later, and get children to make decorations with things recycled, from old cards to pine cones. If you prefer an artificial tree, get one that will last. For how to recycle your tree, see below.
  • Recycle like a pro: check what goes where here or take a look at our list below, including what you can compost from your festive feasts and how to deal with all that cardboard. And please avoid missed pick-ups by not putting out too much at once, or take it all, and that tree, to a recycling site.

Apart from the usual Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day closures, all recycling sites will be on their standard schedules. All open at 8am; go early to save time.

With no rubbish or recycling collections – including clinical and assisted collections – on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day, all pick-ups will be two days later in the first festive week, and one day later in the second. See the image on this page or visit our bank holiday day change page. Garden waste collections are suspended for the festive fortnight. All kerbside collections resume from Monday 8 January.

For more on Christmas waste and how to reduce, reuse or recycle it, check in at www.somersetwaste.gov.uk, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, and sign up for our regular Sorted e-newsletter here.


Recycling – the big Christmas list

Tree: take decoration-free natural Christmas trees to any recycling site for composting. Garden waste collection subscribers can put one out on their usual day once collections resume from Monday 8 January. Check to see if local groups are offering chip trees in your area. For the third year running, residents in South Somerset can get their natural Christmas trees chipped at various sites. A full list of South Somerset’s chipping sites and dates is available here. As a very last resort, to send your tree for costly and wasteful landfill burial to decay for decades while producing climate changing methane, leave it out with the rubbish on your usual collection day 8-19 January 2018.

Cardboard (and cards): brown, corrugated and grey card, Christmas cards, and brown envelopes can go in a kerbside box. Please flatten boxes, and cut or tear up large pieces. Small bits of card and Christmas cards can be put into larger boxes before flattening. Very large pieces or more than the equivalent of two recycling boxes when flattened may not be collected at the kerbside and should be taken to a recycling site. Alternatively, scrunch up Christmas cards and add them to your home composting bin. Or save cards and create gift tags for Christmas 2018.

Wrapping paper: paper wrap can be put in with cardboard in your kerbside recycling (remove plastic bows and fabric ribbons first); plastic or metallic wrap must be discarded into your rubbish. If you wrapped gifts in brown paper packaging tied up with string – one of our favourite things – these can both be reused.

Foil: rinse off any food and scrunch together aluminium foil, including mince pie cases, takeaway or ready-cooked meal containers, and foil previously used in cooking. Add this with cans and aerosols to your kerbside recycling. Or take foil with all recycling and rubbish to a recycling site.

Glass: discard tops*, rinse and recycle glass bottles and jars with paper in a recycling box. Or take all recycling and rubbish to a recycling site. Broken glass, table ware or cookware cannot be recycled and should be discarded into your rubbish. (*If possible and safe, trap steel jar lids within squashed steel cans.)

Cans: rinse and squash cans, then add to your kerbside recycling. Or take cans with all recycling and rubbish to a recycling site.

Plastic bottles: discard tops, caps and trigger sprays, then rinse and squash plastic bottles. We take all plastic bottles – from milk to shampoo, bleach to juice and washing up liquid – and the bottles with hand-squeeze sprays. We do not yet collect any other plastic containers or packaging, such as pots, tubs and trays, which should continue to be put in your rubbish, but plan to do so with the new service Recycle More, which will roll out from 2020.

Food: whatever cannot be composted at home – all fruit and veg peelings, tea leaves, coffee grounds, plain paper napkins – must go in your food waste bin and never, not one scrap, in your rubbish. The food bin can take all food, cooked, raw, fresh or mouldy, including meat and fish, bones and skin, fruit and veg, cereal and bread, and all scrapings from plates and cookware, including solid fats. All that food is process at Somerset’s anaerobic digestion plant into gas to generate electricity for the grid and farm compost. Liquid cooking fat should be taken to any recycling site.

Batteries: used-up batteries from toys and games can be recycled at supermarkets or any recycling site.

For these and all other materials taken at the kerbside, do see our full guide here.


Weather and waste

See our main weather story with all details here. In summary, until your waste is collected, it remains your responsibility, so in bad weather, check forecasts and our website, fill containers carefully, weigh down loose materials, stack boxes with the locked food waste bin on top, and – if possible – leave in a visible but sheltered spot so recycling and refuse does not create a mess. If your collection is missed, contact your district council customer services.

All efforts will be made to maintain services in severe weather, if safe. If a collection is missed, crews will make a return pick-up as soon as possible. Residents should put out missed containers by 7am for up to four calendar days for recycling, and up to seven calendar days for rubbish. If still no collection, take containers back in and put them out by 7am on the next usual collection day.

During severe weather do help anyone elderly, infirm or disabled with containers or in taking excess materials to recycling sites. Where possible, clear snow and ice from pavements yourself – this is the government advice – which helps pedestrians, kerbside collectors and your post person.


All at Somerset Waste Partnership wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.