This is how (un)sustainable Christmas crackers sold in shops really are

Want a plastic-free Christmas? You might want to think twice about some of these high-street and supermarket Christmas crackers

Make your own crackers from Hobbycraft this Christmas
(Image credit: Hobbycraft)

Christmas crackers can add to the festive fun around the Christmas dinner table. They also, as it turns out, are hugely environmentally unfriendly in more ways than one. A thorough testing* of Christmas crackers sold at all the major supermarkets and department stores reveals that they're all unsustainable to a greater or lesser extent. 

Why? Plastic-containing outer packaging is the most obvious problem. All the crackers offered by major supermarkets are packaged in boxes with a clear window made from plastic, with the notable exception of Sainsbury's, whose Home Luxury Cracker has no plastic in outer packaging. 

Sadly, despite making this effort, Sainsbury's have sprinkled their crackers with glitter, which is a form of microplastic and frequently finds its way into our oceans. Microplastic glitter was also found on Waitrose Suede Ribbon Crackers and the traditional crackers from John Lewis.

But it's what's inside the crackers that matters the most, with only a handful of the retailers examined taking care to include gifts that are built to last (thumbs up to John Lewis, Debenhams, Sainsbury's and Waitrose here). 

Tesco & M&S crackers were found to contain single-use, plastic toys inside. But even the retailers that don't include disposable plastic toys in their crackers still wrap the gifts in individual plastic wraps, with the important exception of Waitrose. Waitrose, in fact, comes out as the overall winner for making sustainable Christmas crackers and are working towards making them completely plastic-free by 2020. 

Friends of the Earth Lead Plastic Campaigner, Julian Kirby comments, 'Christmas crackers come with excess packaging that can’t always be recycled, as well as a lot of single-use tat, so this is one festive product that you should think twice about. '

Is there a way to enjoy Christmas crackers sustainably? Yes, by making your own. You can get eco-friendly Christmas cracker kits (opens in new tab) on Etsy and fill them with lovely finds (that you friends and family will want to keep for longer than five seconds). 

For more tips on having a sustainable festive season, see our guide to sustainable Christmas.

*Testing carried out by (opens in new tab)

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.