It’s the most wasteful time of the year.

Christmas presents
Credit: The Guardian

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love will discard 6 million trees, 2 million turkeys, 11 million roasties, 17 million sprouts, 114 thousand tonnes of plastic, 74 million mince pies and around a billion Christmas cards.

The UK produces 30% more waste over the Christmas period, with 270,000 tonnes of food wasted every year. In light of the recent news that UNICEF, a global charity providing humanitarian aid for the poor, have had to feed children in the UK – the fifth richest country in the world – it has become gravely apparent just how wasteful we are in our day-to-day lives. A poll conducted in May by the Food Foundation found that approximately 2.4 million children, 17% of the UK, were living in food insecure households. In a time where we are being forced to stay home more than ever before, food poverty has become a key issue for many, yet a large amount of us continue to waste and throw food away time and time again. Having a Christmas dinner, or any dinner at all for that matter, seems to be a privilege that many cannot afford this year.

Christmas is a time for giving – in this spirit, make sure you think twice this festive period – before discarding perfectly good food see if you can give it to someone who truly needs it. The Trussel Trust website has a postcode finder, enabling you to find a food bank near you, and there are many local schemes all over the country dedicated to making sure nobody goes hungry this Christmas. The UK as a whole seems to be under the illusion that we, as a first-world country, have zero issues relating to poverty, as if it is restricted to developing countries. This could not be further from the truth – with COVID resulting in the constant closing and reopening of schools, free school meals are not a reliable option for families in food poverty, as a result, many feel they’re only choice is to work. This can lead to people going to work when they are ill, possibly spreading the virus, or going to work despite being immunocompromised and potentially risking their lives just to feed their family. Nobody should have to do this in a country that claims to be as developed as the UK, and UNICEF stepping in for the first time in its 70-year history will hopefully be a wakeup call to those in the government, responsible for the 1 million children at risk of malnutrition this holiday. Of course it is impossible for us, as a general public, to feed every starving child, and stop all excessive waste – individuals cannot be held responsible for the systemic issues that brought us to this point, however, we can still do something about it.

The tragedy in consumption doesn’t end with food waste, our excessive shopping at Christmas has also had an impact on the environment. Every Christmas morning, millions of children (and adults) sprint to the tree and start tearing open parcels. We spend the whole morning trashing plastic, cards and wrapping paper, often not disposing of them correctly. It is even estimated that 23 million unwanted gifts will end up in a landfill this Christmas – with it only taking a single gift to make it an unforgettable Christmas for a child who otherwise may not have received anything, donations like this could mean the world…  The same goes for unwanted food; donate! 

This Christmas be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem; plan your meals, dispose of your waste responsibly and donate any unneeded food or gifts to local food banks or Christmas present appeals such as those held annually by the Salvation Army. 2020 has been the hardest year in the lives of many, help brighten up someone’s Christmas day by donating that which you don’t need now.

If you’re struggling to feed yourself over the break, or know people that are, please guide them towards the following sites. Make sure you all stay well-fed and safe during these 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/using-a-food-bank/

http://www.trusselltrust.org

https://www.endhungeruk.org/