How to cut plastic waste at Christmas

Aiming for a plastic-free Christmas? Here's how to easily reduce your plastic use (and keep your halo intact) this festive season

Cut down on plastic use to have an eco friendly Christmas
(Image credit: Hobbycraft)

If you’re anything like us, you’re already counting down the days until Christmas and watching Elf on loop. But if you want to make sure your festive celebrations don’t harm the environment, then you will want to look at cutting your plastic waste – and for many of us, that means doing so without having to make a lot of extra effort (we get it, this time of year is bonkers). 

Christmas has become synonymous with excess, but indulging can mean we’re doing the environment more harm than good, especially if we're choosing single-use plastics that can't be recycled. If you want to enjoy the festive season with a clear conscience, here are 11 simple ways to do it.

1. Pull a (homemade) cracker

Make your own crackers from Hobbycraft this Christmas

(Image credit: Hobbycraft)

The crackers you see everywhere on the high street contain a plastic coating, which can't be recycled, so go green and make your own instead. Who genuinely keeps those rubbish plastic toys you get inside them anyway?! Hobbycraft has DIY crackers (opens in new tab)made from recycled kraft brown paper, which you can decorate, personalise and fill with anything you like. Jot down your favourite jokes on paper and use seeds as great, eco-friendly gifts.

Can't be doing with that? Do without crackers. Can't do without crackers? Get eco-friendly ones. These are our favourites:

2. Ditch those plastic straws

Aperol Spritz

(Image credit: Getty)

Pubs and restaurants have ditched them, so if you're still using plastic straws at home, make this Christmas the season to stop. There are loads of eco-friendly straw options that are reusable and won't end up floating around in our oceans. Choose stainless steel or bamboo straws that can be washed a million times, or paper straws, which are biodegradable. You can even get folding straws to take out and about with you, which make great stocking fillers.

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Jungle Straws bamboo straws – £5.99 (opens in new tab)

Individually hand crafted and harvested by local artisans at a family-run farm in rural Vietnam, these bamboo straws are SGS certified and 100% organic. Jungle Straws are a perfect zero waste alternative to plastic straws and can be washed and reused many times over. 

3. Choose a real tree (or keep your artificial one forever)

96 White LED Connectable Curtain Light 2m x 1m, Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

If you’re not sure which kind of tree is best for the environment, you may be surprised to find it’s the real variety. The Carbon Trust (opens in new tab) estimates that a 2m artificial tree has twice the carbon footprint of a real tree that ends up in a landfill. If that real tree is recycled, then the artificial tree’s footprint is 10 times as large. If you’ve already got a faux tree, then stick with it for as many years as you can to minimise its environmental impact. The ultimate choice, though, is a live tree in a tub that you can return to the garden and bring indoors each year. 

4. Bag some reusable produce bags

Stocking up on fruit and veg for the big day requires a mammoth supermarket shop or three. Don’t be tempted to reach for those single-use plastic bags because you’re in a hurry. Invest in washable, reusable produce bags like this set of three from Addis (opens in new tab) and feel smug that you’re doing your bit for the planet. Simply take along with your weekly shop. Pick, pack and weigh your produce, then pop them in the wash when they need it. 

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Stanbow Eco-Friendly Washable Reusable Produce Bags – £6.39 (opens in new tab)

Stanbow Reusable Mesh Produce Bags are recyclable and washable which can help to eliminate countless plastic bags to decrease pollution and save energy. They have a handy drawstring to keep your fruit and veg secure inside.

5. Choose sustainably sourced wooden toys

Choose wooden toys from sustainable sources for an eco friendly Christmas

(Image credit: Best Years)

If you’re buying for children, then steer clear of the brightly coloured plastic – they'll thank you for it when they're older. Toys made from sustainably sourced wood will become family heirlooms and are far better for the environment. There are loads of options, from play kitchens available at Lidl and Amazon, to jigsaws, and this gorgeous wooden bus (opens in new tab)with removable figures, which is from Best Years, and costs £75. If you're buying for your own children, consider looking for pre-loved pieces that are often in near-perfect condition.

6. Invest in a reusable advent calendar

Choose an eco friendly advent calendar

(Image credit: Hobbycraft)

You’ve probably already devoured half of this year’s advent calendar, but if you’re still buying the chocolate-filled single-use calendars, make this the last year you do. Choose a reusable calendar with drawers or pockets that you can refill with treats each year. There are loads of options, from cloth calendars that hang on the wall, to this lovely little Christmas tree with drawers (opens in new tab), which is £15 from Hobbycraft. You can get your craft on to personalise it and then filling it can become a bit of a family tradition. 

7. Swap your wrapping paper

Choose wrapping paper that can be recycled this Christmas

(Image credit: Plastic Freedom)

Next up, ditch the wrapping paper. You might not know it, but most standard wrapping paper contains plastic and can’t be recycled, so opt for brown paper instead. You can personalise it with paint, tie it up with ribbon or string, and even make your own tags.  If the thought of all that effort sounds too much, then Plastic Freedom (opens in new tab) has some gorgeous, 100% recyclable options, featuring everything from festive pugs to reindeer and costing from just £3.

8. Brush up your eco credentials

Expecting guests this Christmas? You can bet at least one of them will forget their toothbrush. Help them out while helping the planet by investing in a stash of bamboo toothbrushes. These bad boys are made with 100% natural, biodegradable bamboo and are free from plastic packaging. Colgate's new Bamboo Charcoal Toothbrushes (opens in new tab) costs just £4, so they won't break the bank, either.

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4 Bamboo Toothbrushes by Aura Charcoal – £5.99 (opens in new tab)

Made from sustainable bamboo, the charcoal on the bristles removes stains from the teeth naturally without any harmful chemicals. Each toothbrush has an identifying symbols, which means everyone knows which toothbrush is theirs.

9. Don't forget your leftovers

Choose plastic free food storage this Christmas

(Image credit: Plastic Freedom)

If you find yourself reaching for the plastic pots when you need to store those leftovers, then step away now. Plastic Freedom (opens in new tab) sells super versatile, reusable Elephant pots, which come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and are perfect for stashing leftover turkey. They're fridge and freezer safe, leak proof and 100% plastic free. Prices start at £11.50 but if you weigh up the cost-per-use, they'll soon be worth it.

10. Choose decorations you can eat (yes, really)

Make Christmas biscuits from Tesco

(Image credit: Tesco)

What's better than looking at pretty Christmas decorations? Looking at ones you can eat later, of course! Decorations like tinsel and baubles are full of plastic, so a tasty alternative is to hang home-baked cookies from the tree. Baking them is fun, icing them is fun, and eating them is even more fun. Take a look at this simple Christmas biscuit recipe (opens in new tab) from Tesco. They make great gifts for loved ones, too.

11. Choose your beer and wine wisely

Choose wine with corks to cut down on plastic use

(Image credit: Friends of the Earth)

Did you know that wine bottle tops and screw caps normally contain an inner plastic seal, meaning they can't be recycled? Instead, buy wine with proper corks. According to the WWF, the cork oak used in wine stoppers is entirely sustainable. And don't forget to choose beer cans in boxes to avoid the plastic rings. If you're a big drinker, you could even buy a refillable keg. Cheers!

Laura Crombie
Laura Crombie

Laura is Brand Development Director for Real Homes, focusing on digital content. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently renovating a 1960s house in Worcestershire, doing as much as possible on a DIY basis.