Christmas ideas: Food and drink (Part III)

Green Christmas – is it time to ban Christmas dinner?

We’re not far away from sitting down to the most wasteful meal of the year. Families the length and breadth of the country will be tucking into a slap-up dinner on Christmas Day, then throw around 150,000 tonnes of it into the bin.

Christmas dinner is the most wasteful meal of the year, and we need to think twice about the sheer amount of waste it produces, says a leading waste and recycling company. Maybe we should even think about banning Christmas dinner altogether – that’s the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of Yorkshire-based BusinessWaste. “Why not? We’ve already been labelled Scrooges for criticising the cheap plastic tat in Christmas crackers,” says spokesman Mark Hall. “We might as well make a stand on this too.”

So you’re after our Christmas Dinners now?

“Well, yes and no,” says Hall. “We’re going after the huge portion sizes that nobody eats and ends up getting thrown in the bin. The problem is this – we all buy far too much food at Christmas, and a large proportion of it ends up wasted.” Here, based on BusinessWaste’s research, is what the average person tucks away on Christmas Day (try reading the list with the 12 Days of Christmas in mind):

  • Seven pigs in blankets
  • Two portions of turkey
  • Three slices of gammon ham
  • Five roast potatoes (not gold rings)
  • Christmas pudding and brandy butter
  • Two large chocolate bars
  • One fruit cake (large)
  • One brussels sprout (with 29 going in the bin)

That’s a lot of grub, and to make sure everybody gets fed, we buy up to twice as much as is absolutely necessary. And the biggest problem, BusinessWaste says, is that we are no longer a nation that makes leftovers last several days – we serve a meal and scrape what hasn’t been eaten straight into the bin.

“And that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” says Hall, “Britain wastes up to a third of its food*, and Christmas dinner is the most wasteful meal of them all.”

The figures show that the UK wastes food worth £15 billion every year. And it’s not just the seven million tonnes of annual food waste – it’s the effort and resources of having to lug it up and down the country and around the world that’s wasted too.

Will people refuse to think about the refuse collectors? (Clever use of a homonym?)

Once you’ve thrown that food in the bin, somebody – your poor, overworked refuse collector – is going to have to take it away for you. “People don’t realise how heavy food waste is,” says Hall, “but your average bin-lifter can tell you. It’s really heavy. We’ve made a more-than-generous calculation based on annual food waste figures, and have come up with the figure of 150,000 tonnes of food waste will be binned during Christmas week.”

It’s not just the human effort, either. The extra food waste means extra journeys for bin lorries to the weighbridge and final disposal, and that’s a significant contribution to emissions and wasted resources.

“And that’s just the disposal chain,” says Hall. “Think of the effort that got that food to you in the first place. Wasted.”

A bit of Christmas redemption, just like Ebenezer Scrooge

Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Muppet Christmas Carol. He sings – not a lot of people know that (yes, we know he never actually said this) isn’t out to wreck your family’s Christmas. It just wants you to think how you can celebrate this special time of year sensibly and in a sustainable manner. “There’s no need to panic buy before Christmas,” says Hall. “And there’s absolutely no need to ‘double up’ on your usual purchases ‘just in case we run out’. Here’s a tip – you’re not going to run out. You’ve bought too much already.”

BusinessWaste advises that you should sit down and plan your Christmas meals, and try your best to only buy enough for what you need. “Think of the money you’ll be saving if you do that,” says Hall. “It’ll be enough to bring a tear to old Ebenezer’s eye. And, if you want to redeem yourself, Scrooge-style, why not buy for your local food bank at the same time? That’s the true meaning of Christmas.”

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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