How to Manage Christmas Waste

How to Reduce Christmas Waste Even if you successfully reduced your Christmas waste by choosing reduced packaging and wrapping with old newspaper or Furoshiki, you may have family or guests who haven’t jumped on your green wagon yet. Or maybe, like me, you still have wrapping paper and new tissue paper kicking around from your “pre-green” days. Either way, chances are you’re going to have more waste than usual on December 25th. Make a quick plan before the big day on how to manage it to avoid landfilling wherever possible. Here are some tips to help you reduce your Christmas waste.

Gift Bags: I find most people are using gift bags and tissue paper now. Once a gift bag is unwrapped, fold up the tissue paper and flatten the bag for reuse (I have tissue paper I’ve been reusing for years – even if it has small tears, nobody notices when it’s nicely stuffed in the top of the bag).

Wrapping paper can be reused too, if you have patient present-openers who take the time to carefully remove along seams. Anything my 4 year old unwraps doesn’t stand a chance, but luckily in Toronto we can at least recycle (non-metallic) wrapping paper.

Ribbons and bows can get reused practically forever. (This doesn’t mean you should buy them if you have none – you’re better off adorning gifts with more natural materials.)

Cards can be repurposed into ornaments  or consider using cutting the front page of the card to use next year as a non-folding card.

Food: Once the presents are opened and the feasting begins, keep food waste to a minimum by not piling up your plate (go back for seconds if need-be). Food left on plates is not likely to be kept, but food in the serving dishes can easily be refrigerated or frozen. There are lots of recipes for using leftovers so don’t rush to toss uneaten food. You might be sick of turkey now, but a nice soup will be great come February. If you’re not hosting, help clear dishes and encourage your host to reuse leftovers – offer to take them home if they won’t use them (I’ve been known to attend family functions with a stash of containers just in case). As a last resort, use any compost options available to you before throwing food into the garbage.

What Goes Where? Every municipality has different recycling and composting programs, so be sure to check with yours before tossing waste. You might think you’re doing the planet a favour by erring on the side of green and recycling or composting everything, but it wreaks havoc on the municipal systems and might do more harm than good. Toronto’s online Waste Wizard is searchable for just about anything you could possibly have to dispose of.


Take stock of your waste situation this year, and make a plan to improve on it next year. Encourage your family to do the same and maybe you won’t have to worry about Christmas waste at all!


Do you have a plan to further reduce Christmas waste next year? Share your ideas on my Facebook page!

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