The post-Christmas clean up: We used enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon!

As the clean-up after the festive season continues this weekend, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune outlines the importance of recycling waste items left over from the Christmas period
The post-Christmas clean up: We used enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon!
Pictured is Daniel Braide and Ella Duffy launching Repak's Christmas campaign. Ireland is expected to generate a staggering 83,000 tonnes of Christmas packaging waste this year. Picture: ©INPHO/Steve Langan

CHRISTMAS can be a plastic-heavy time with toy packaging, selection boxes and Christmas crackers in widespread use. As we dust off the decorations now and tidy them away for Christmas 2019 it is important to remember to recycle plastic, waste cardboard and paper and other items from over the Christmas period.

Lots of people are now dealing with the waste from the Christmas period and it is important to stop and think. It might be even a case of reusing packaging to pack away the Christmas decorations.

In the UK figures showed that households will be throwing away more than 277,000 miles of wrapping paper this Christmas — which is enough to stretch to the moon. Estimates show that we create 30% more rubbish than usual around Christmas time. However if we all think about how we can recycle and reuse items we can go a long way to saving the planet this festive season.

There are many items that we use at Christmas time that can be recycled and especially when it comes to things like toy packaging, I would encourage people to think before they dump the packaging. If your recycling bin is overflowing you can use your nearest recycling centre. A list of what can and can’t go in your green bin can be found at https://recyclinglistireland.ie/.

Another use for wrapping paper is using it to cover school books. Also with Christmas cards, they can be used again for next year or put in the recycle bin. Another tip for Christmas cards is turning them into gift tags or thank you cards. It is estimated that one billion Christmas cards could end up in the bin without being recycled.

Items that are suitable for recycling include plastic milk cartons, fruit and vegetable trays and plastic drink bottles, tins and cans, as well as paper and cardboard items. Items not suitable for recycling include takeaway coffee cups, plastic carrier bags, soft plastics such as wrappers, paper towels, and used pizza boxes.

Tips include flattening recyclable items down as much as possible and try to keep the paper and cardboard dry. Other items too that can be recycled include old batteries and old electrical items. Some shops that sells batteries provide collection boxes for old batteries to facilitate their recycling.

Food is a big focus at Christmas too and I would encourage people to dispose of any suitable leftovers in a compost bin. In addition to this we use a lot of glass at Christmas time which can also be recycled. Rinse out glass bottles or jars to get rid of any leftovers and bring the glass to your nearest bottle bank.

Also when it comes to the Christmas tree, local authorities around the country have organised facilities for recycling Christmas trees free of charge. They have put the information on the facilities on their websites. Christmas trees can be mulched, and then used for compost.

The European Parliament has made a lot of progress in introducing measures to reduce the use of single use plastics. However there is a lot more work to be done when it comes to protecting the environment. Everyone from producers, to consumers to businesses must play their part in the fight against plastic.

Last year at the European Parliament we progressed a lot of work in the fight against plastic. There is a responsibility on us as users of plastic to ensure we use it responsibly and there is also a focus on producers to ensure that plastic is easier to reuse and recycle.

It is so sad to see beautiful places around Ireland that are now litter blackspots. We have such a beautiful country that we can’t allow it to be destroyed by litter. We put a lot of pride in keeping towns around Ireland clean but we must do the same for the beaches and rivers.

Figures show that plastic production is 20 times higher now than in the 1960s and is set to quadruple again by 2050. There are so many reports now highlighting the dangers of plastic and we cannot continue to produce and use this amount of plastic, which is impacting hugely on our environment. Reducing the amount of plastics in our oceans and on our beaches is vital to protect marine life and also to ensure that fish, and as a result the food chain, are not further contaminated by plastics.

Ireland has led the way on the fight against plastic when it introduced the levy on plastic bags in 2002, resulting in a 90% drop in the use of plastic bags in Ireland. It is great to see that the European Parliament is approving measures to help reduce the impact of single use plastic.

It is great too that all public bodies and commercial State agencies will be required to end the purchase of single-use plastic cups, cutlery and straws from March 31 under plans due to be considered by Cabinet. Under the proposals Government departments will stop buying the single-use plastic items.

We won’t end the use of single use plastics overnight but we can continue to work hard at reducing its use and doing our bit with recycling.

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