Norfolk County Council shares its top tips for an eco-friendly Christmas
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From food waste to recycling and plastics to packaging, Christmas can have a real impact on the environment. But this year Norfolk County Council is encouraging us to get green for Christmas – find out how you can help.
This year we all became a little more eco-friendly – from reusable cups and tote bags to shampoo bars and pre-loved clothes, it turns out that making everyday swaps wasn't that difficult.
But walk down a high street, switch on the TV or go to a supermarket at this time of year and suddenly, it isn't so easy to be green: plastic is everywhere, and it's all under the guise of comfort and joy.
Last year, environmental charity Wildlife and Countryside Link predicted that the UK would produce 5 million tonnes of Christmas related waste – from food and drink, packaging and wrapping paper to cards, Christmas trees and more – and figures from our region suggest that, in January, there is a 15pc increase in the amount of waste processed in our recycling centres.
While environmental concerns are increasingly viewed as a global responsibility – something David Attenborough looks set to address in Poland next month, as he takes up the people's seat at the UN summit for climate change – we cannot ignore our personal impact on the world around us.
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That's why Norfolk County Council is promoting lots of ways to have a greener Christmas and why Kate Murrell, waste and recycling manager says that getting your recycling right is key – particularly when it comes to wrapping paper.
'This year, our councils got together to highlight the scrunch test,' she says. 'If you scrunch your wrapping paper into a ball and it stays scrunched, it can be recycled...If it bounces back, it can't be recycled and needs to go in your rubbish bin. So if you're going out to buy wrapping paper, ask yourself: will it pass the scrunch test?'
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Kate admits this can be a little difficult to do before you buy, so advises that you stay clear of papers that are sparkly, shiny or foiled. 'That's usually a good hint that they won't stay scrunched,' she says. A better alternative is to avoid wrapping paper altogether – use fabric, newspaper or magazines instead, with as little sticky tape as possible.
And it's not just what we buy, but how we buy it. 'One of the other main sources of Christmas waste is packaging,' says Kate. 'A lot of us will shop online in dribs and drabs, which creates a lot of waste.' Doing your online shopping in one big order – or, even better, shopping locally – is much more helpful.
The third area that Norfolk County Council is keen to address is food waste. 'It seems that with Christmas, all of our good habits disappear,' says Kate. Home-composting, for example, is something many households do throughout the year, but which gets easily forgotten in the post-Christmas clean-up.
'One of the other main issues is over-buying. We know this is difficult because, after all, you don't want to run out of food. So we're encouraging people to use leftovers and visit our website, where there will be lots of recipes and ideas on what to do with ingredients such as leftover sprouts, meat, gravy and party food.'
Norfolk County Council's food waste champions – 40 volunteers who regularly share food waste tips and tricks with friends and neighbours – will also be getting involved, encouraging those around them to reuse and cut waste as much as possible.
And 'food banks are a great option for foods with a long shelf life,' adds Kate, along with community fridges for unused, fresh produce.
After Christmas, Kate recommends visiting your local recycling centre – nine of which include a reuse shop. 'We try and encourage people to arrive with their waste already sorted,' says Kate. 'People can come along with their used trees, broken Christmas lights and any unwanted gifts.' These can be sold in the on-site reuse shops and can also help to support charity too, as a cut of the proceeds goes to East Anglian Air Ambulance.
For more information about how to have an eco-friendly Christmas visit www.norfolkrecycles.com, and check www.norfolk.gov.uk/recyclingcentres to find out what you can take along to your local recycling centre and its opening hours over the festive season.