‘Tis the season for gift giving and abundance. Unfortunately, it can also lead to increased waste – such as dead Christmas trees dumped on pavements.
This holiday, London Councils is encouraging Londoners to take advantage of councils’ reuse and recycling resources to have a more sustainable Christmas and New Year.
Real Christmas trees present an evergreen recycling opportunity, but all too often there are piles of used trees fly tipped around London after the festive break.
To combat this problem, many boroughs are offering drop-off sites in car parks and green areas for Christmas trees to be recycled into mulch and compost, or re-planted if they have their roots.
There are also services where you can rent a tree for the season. This prevents trees from being discarded and languishing on the streets, or in landfill.
According to the Carbon Trust, a two-metre-tall living Christmas tree with no roots has a 16 kg carbon dioxide equivalent footprint if it ends up in landfill. As it decomposes, it produces methane gas which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
In contrast, reusing a Christmas tree by planting it in a pot or garden for next year, or recycling it by turning it into chips, can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 80%.
Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said:
“Celebrating Christmas or New Year with family and friends doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our commitments to living sustainably. If anything, we can make our communities greener with thoughtful choices and plans to reuse and recycle seasonal waste as much as we can, including our Christmas trees.”
Londoners are making some positive strides when it comes to recycling. Data for 2018/19 shows that London has the second lowest regional percentage of waste to landfill. London landfilled 7% of waste that local authorities collected in 2018/19, down from 9.6% the year before.
London also has the top six councils with the lowest household waste generation per head, and three out of the top six councils with the largest percentage decrease in household waste per head.
Despite these positive statistics, there is room for improvement in recycling rates across London, which can be variable depending on factors such as council location and housing type.
It is not just trees that can be recycled. Seasonal items such as old or broken Christmas lights, cardboard packaging from gifts, food tins, and unwanted clothing can be given a second life through reuse or recycling. Even extra food can be reused if it is composted, frozen, or given away. Recycled paper uses less water and reduces pollution, and old or unwanted gifts can be given to charity.