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Everything Glittered is not Recyclable: Is this the End of Christmas Sparkle?

Everything Glittered is not Recyclable: Is this the End of Christmas Sparkle?

Since it’s already mid-November, it means the holiday season is officially here.  You’ll know it is from how our supermarkets are filled-to-the-brim with ‘Everything Christmas’, and our televisions are now flooded with Christmas-themed ads.  #LeafyBlinders wins Christmas btw.  But while it might be too early for some to be thinking about it, there’s one subject hitting the news lately which is close to our hearts.

That is, just how recyclable is Christmas waste?

Christmas is a magical time for many of us, but it’s also sadly the biggest waste-producing holiday of the year.  According to London Recycles, the consumption of paper and card in London alone is around 38,000 tonnes in the Christmas period.  That’s enough to wrap Big Ben more than 34,000 times, the Gherkin over 30,000 times and the London Eye over 6,500 times!  Yet a large proportion of this paper and card is metallic or contains glitter.  Glitter tends to adorn everything this time of year, from cards and wrapping paper to decorations and even food, to tempt us in and get us buying.   

We love a bit of sparkle at CB Headquarters.  But there’s a problem with it that perhaps not many consumers realise.  With sustainability on everyone’s mind these days, it’s important to note that Christmas paper waste is entirely non-recyclable when it’s metallicised or has glitter on it.

This is because most Christmas ‘sparkle’ contains non-biodegradable plastic that can’t be processed in recycling plants.  Glitter is made from tiny pieces of etched aluminium bonded to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and is effectively a harmful microplastic.  Metallicised Christmas paper and glitter clogs up recycling equipment and often contaminates the filtering process, meaning it still ends up in finished recycled products anyway.  Many local councils don’t accept wrapping paper with their recycling collections for this reason (but also because of the plastic sticky tape often left on it).  There is already enough plastic in manufacturing, and Christmas sparkle simply adds to the problem. 

Because glitter is on so many of the things we buy at Christmas, it means our gift-giving tradition creates a lot of single-use plastic waste.  And if you’ve not been hiding behind a bauble lately, you’ll have noticed there is a real war being waged against single-use plastic.  It is quite literally suffocating our planet, entering our water systems and drowning our oceans.  What’s more, according to recent research, plastic is polluting our air and has even found its way into snow.  

We know artificial snow is a thing (and another topic entirely).  But plastic in real snow?  That’s a whole new level of crazy.

Plastic Passion

It’s hard to miss all the messages and warnings about how damaging plastic is for our environment.  That’s why, as we hurdle towards the most wonderfully wasteful time of year, it’s great to see recent announcements from the major retailers making real headway in the war on (Christmas) plastic.  Many of the big players are taking important first steps to reduce and eventually eliminate, plastic from their festive product ranges. 

Back in August, M&S announced they’re removing glitter from their entire Christmas paper range – including wrap, cards, gift tags, bags and crackers. 

Meanwhile, Tesco announced the switch to plastic-free glitter for its range of trees, plants and flowers.

Others joining in include Waitrose and John Lewis, who are both eliminating plastic toys from their Christmas crackers.

Christmas bling is on the decline, but it’s under attack for the right reasons.  Even though society has a passion for the ‘quick convenience’ plastic affords us, we also don’t want to make this world unlivable for future generations.  This is a problem that simply must be solved for the sake of mankind, and we’re glad to see these positive changes. 

Alternative Methods of Christmas Wrapping

If you can’t bear the thought of gifting an unwrapped present (or one wrapped in non-recyclable paper), don’t fear!  There are of course, many other eco-friendly ways to wrap Christmas presents. 

Kraft paper makes a great alternative, as it’s 100% recyclable.  You can get it in rolls, or if you want something pre-made, you can go for traditional envelopes, like our paper mailers.

Cotton or jute fabric also makes an excellent alternative wrap.  Have some old Christmas linen lying around (think tea towels, tablecloths and runners)?  Use that!  And naturally, you can also use cotton bags.  Many of our Clever Customers have used our gusseted and drawstring bags in this way.

All you need is a little bit of inspiration to ‘think outside the bag’.  Check out our Christmas Shop for all kinds of themed printed items.  Any of our plain items can be personalised with your own design to truly make your gifts a unique experience.  Christmas is a special holiday after all, so why not get creative with your wrapping delights!

Bringing Sparkle Back, Yah

If you’re still a big fan of glitter and sparkle, don’t panic.  There are even biodegradable options for that now too.  Check out retailers such as Wild Glitter, Eco Stardust and Eco Glitter Fun, who are all hot on the case of an eco-friendly, non-plastic solution.  They market their glitter as cosmetic grade, but it’s still perfectly suitable for craft projects too.  There is also Bio Glitter, who have three ranges for cosmetics, decoration and education.  If there’s a desire to sparkle, there’s an eco-brand for that.

Bag it Up (No Diggity, No Doubt)

No matter how you decide to get Christmas wrapped up this year, whether it be with traditional, recyclable wrapping paper (or with one of our cotton bags), we hope you'll agree that doing it with plastic is a 'no go' zone.