Christmas, the most wasteful time of the year
A huge amount of waste is produced over the holidays, Leah Borromeo visits an e-waste facility to find out just how green recycling really is
Christmas is a time for giving, receiving –and chucking packaging and unwanted stuff in the recycling box.
The UK produces nearly 300m tonnes of waste each year. It’s estimated that every Christmas tree bought in the UK this year put end to end, would be the equivalent of a return trip to New York City. Combine that with the 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, the 13,350 tonnes of glass and enough wrapping paper to go round the equator nine times, and we’re talking about a huge amount of rubbish – and that doesn’t even touch on the gifts and gadgets that are chucked away because they’re broken, old or ugly.
The recent launch of DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Programme, produced in partnership with WRAP, is meant to instruct consumers and industry on how to reduce waste at whatever point they happen to be in the supply chain.
I was recently invited by the United Nations university to view its e-waste Academy (EWAS) – a kind of bootcamp of academics and researchers specialising in what happens to all the gadgets and goods we use once we’re fed up with them or a new model comes out.
The aim is to lay the seeds for global solutions to a problem that has its roots in the supply chain of everything we encounter – everything we use has to be made somewhere and in that process articles are commonly disposed of.
Waste issues go beyond the consumer, they start at the raw materials stage and continue after disposal stage. You even encounter “illegal transboundary waste flows”, when one country lacks the capacity to get rid of a certain type of rubbish and sends it on for another country to deal with. This can either be done legally through export or illegally by forwarding it on to developing countries, sometimes in the guise of aid donations.