'Tis the season to be...wasteful?

Christmas may be be the traditional time for over indulgence, but officials are urging the public to try to keep waste to a minimum.

Gobble gobble: English families are expected to get through 16.5 million turkeys this Christmas

Gobble gobble: English families are expected to get through 16.5 million turkeys this Christmas

Defra and national recycling campaign Recycle Now have teamed up to drive the message home and are asking people not to let their eyes get bigger than their bellies.

According to the team investigating Christmas waste, English families will bin an incredible 160,000 tonnes of food over the festive season, enough to fill a flotilla of skips that would fill the Channel between Dover and Calais more than five times over.

3,000 tonnes of foil will be used on wrapping the nation's turkeys alone.

Once wrapping paper, unwanted presents, trees that have served their purpose and all the rest of the seasonal waste is added into the equation, Christmas generates over three million tonnes of municipal rubbish.

The waste reduction team has enlisted the support of TV chef Kevin Woodford.

"At Christmas the heat is on to cook bigger and better meals, and time pressures mean we've become reliant on ready prepared food, which is time-saving but packaging heavy, rather than making things from fresh produce," he said.

"We also end up throwing away leftovers rather than use them to cook up another tasty meal.

"It's really easy to create a traditional Christmas feast that is much tastier, and often cheaper, by buying good quality meat and vegetables and sticking to what you need rather than buying lots of food 'just in case'."

The chef has come up with a list of common sense tips to cut food waste.

  • Confirm how many people you're cooking for so you buy only what you need.
  • Plan ahead and make a shopping list. It saves a second trip to the shops if you've forgotten something and also avoids waste, as you'll only buy what you need.
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables such as sprouts, loose and not pre-packed and look for other festive goodies with less packaging. This is good for your pocket as you are buying what you really need and means there is less packaging in your bin. You also get to choose the best items.
  • Remember to put your fruit and vegetable peelings into your compost bin.
  • avoid putting out large quantities of perishable food - cold meats, cheese, bread and salads - and remember to put leftovers back in the fridge.
  • Think of how left-over food can be used to make another meal instead of being thrown away.

    Local Environmental Quality Minister, Ben Bradshaw, said: "We've become used to a throw-away culture for left-over food. But this is wasteful and creates environmental problems.

    "This Christmas Britain will generate millions of tonnes of rubbish, most of which will languish in landfill sites. This needn't be so.

    "Recycling is easier than it has ever been before, so everyone can do their bit. Even better, avoid throwing it away and use up left-overs."

    Julie Brown, of Recycle Now, said: "An extra bin bag of rubbish for every household in the UK of food waste alone is a significant amount, and it would be better at this time of year if we cut back on the waste and the money saved ended up in our pockets instead of our bins.

    "It's really easy not only to cut down on the amount of food we waste, but also to remember to recycle as much as possible, especially over Christmas. It's never been easier to recycle.

    "Eight out of ten local authorities now provide doorstep collection services for a range of materials - including paper, card, glass, metal cans - and we would encourage people to use them."

    By Sam Bond

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