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Reducing waste

Christmas Green Guide

Tip 1: Gifts

According to research, Australians waste $630 million on unwanted gifts. To reduce expenses, time and waste to landfill, ask your friends and family for a wish list based on a set budget to help you buy meaningful presents that will be used by the recipient.

A lot of us have too much stuff and don’t really need anything, so experience gifts can be great! Think zoo membership, subscriptions, Fringe vouchers or movie tickets for some ideas.

Tip 2: Decorations

Decorations and lights, including tinsel and artificial trees, generally can’t go in your recycling bin, so try to buy good quality decorations that will last for many years. Or if you are feeling creative you could make your own decorations – search online for ‘Upcycled Christmas decorations’ or ‘Recycled Christmas decorations’ to find inspiration!

Christmas lights and any other power-operated decorations are e-waste and so these cannot go in any of your bins at home. They need to be taken to an e-waste recycler (hyperlink to e-waste page).

Tip 3: Serving ware

If you are hosting Christmas celebrations, try to avoid plastic disposables and instead go for real tablecloths, plates and cutlery. Or if the dishes would be too much, look for compostable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery made from bamboo, wood and sugarcane – these are available at all supermarkets nowadays. When cleaning up, these can go in the green bin along with any leftover food scraps they contain.

Tip 4: Food

Plan ahead to avoid wasting food – check what you already have in the pantry and make a shopping list to avoid over-buying, make space in the freezer for any leftovers, have some containers on hand to share leftovers with others,

All food scraps and napkins can be composted in the green bin. Wrap meat and seafood scraps in a kitchen caddy bag or newspaper and put them in the freezer until bin day.

Tip 5: Batteries

Give rechargeable batteries and a battery charger with a battery-powered gift. Remember that old batteries must never go in any of your bins at home as they are hazardous. There are new recycling points at all major supermarkets now taking your batteries for recycling.

Tip 6: Wrapping paper

Have a box handy when unwrapping gifts to keep wrapping paper, ribbons and bows that can be used again next year.

If you do buy gift wrap, look for recycled paper options and avoid foil, glitter and cellophane wrappings. Cellophane, foil and wraps containing plastics or glitter can’t be recycled and need to go in the waste bin.

Tissue paper can go in the green bin for composting as the fibres are too short for recycling into new paper and cardboard products.

Alternative gift wrappings could include a new tea towel, cloth bag, kids’ artwork or newspaper (adding colour with paint or ribbon).

Crafty tip for cards: creatively cut up card fronts to use as gift tags on next year’s presents!

Tip 7: Bon bons

As with wrapping paper, bon bons that are covered with metallic foil, plastic or glitter cannot go in the recycling bin. They are a two-second tradition creating so much plastic waste.

Making your own bon bons can be a great holiday activity to replace the plastic trinkets with great gifts that your guests will use or eat, such as chocolates, plant seeds, or mini perfume bottles. Be sure to include the lame jokes – there are many printable ones available online!

Tip 8: Toy & Gift Packaging

Many gifts come presented in layers of packaging, but not all of this is recyclable!

Most toys and gifts come in a combination of a box with a hard plastic window. Both can go in the recycling bin, but they need to be separated first.

If there are rigid plastic moulds attached to a cardboard backing or inside a box, these can also go in the recycling bin but need to be separated from any cardboard backing.

Gift bags are increasingly popular and great to reuse as they don’t get damaged when opening them. If damaged, they can be recycled, but please remove any handles and ribbons first.

Any soft, scrunchy plastic packets containing small parts or accessories, regardless of any symbols printed on them need to go in either your soft plastics for recycling at the supermarket or in your red bin. The same goes for any protective bubble or film wraps.

Foam packaging is not recyclable and needs to go in the red bin. This is to avoid plastic snow in the recycling truck as foam breaks into lots of tiny pieces and sticks to other recyclable materials – this is near impossible to gather up.

General tips to reduce and reuse

  • Borrow, swap, rent or share before buying items you only use occasionally, such as garden tools, camping supplies, party supplies.
  • Maintain and repair clothing, appliances and other items before replacing them.
  • Look for products that use less packaging, such as bulk items instead of smaller individually wrapped products.
  • Buy used. You can find everything from clothing to building materials at charity shops and salvage centres (listed below).
  • Recycle whatever remains after these steps and only dispose to landfill what cannot be reduced or reused.

Pre-owned clothing, shoes, bags, homewares, electrical items, children's toys, dishes, ornaments, bedding and other household items that are in reasonable condition can be given to numerous charity organisations.

Some charity organisations may collect larger items such as furniture or whitegoods free of charge. For these items is best to contact the organisation directly to find out what they will accept and whether they are able to collect it.

Lions Shed (bargain centre) 36 Quailo Avenue, Hallett Cove Open Thursdays 9:30am - 12:30pm and Saturdays 9am - 12:30pm

BYO coffee cups

Join the war on waste and carry a reusable cup for takeaway coffee. Some outlets are signing up to be Responsible Cafes and offering discounts on BYO cups. Find your local Responsible Cafes below.

Refuse junk mail

You can refuse the junk mail that ends up in your letterbox by purchasing a ‘No advertising material’ label for your letterbox (available from most hardware stores) or by following this advice on the Clean Up Australia website.

Modern cloth nappies

Cloth nappies have come a long way and now families can try before they buy.

The Eco Bums Cloth Nappy Library came about because of the overwhelming number of modern cloth nappies on the market and families being unsure on which one to choose and how to use them.

For more information visit the Eco Bums Cloth Nappy Library service website.

Compost at home

Turn your food scraps and garden waste into a rich soil conditioner for the garden. Visit our composting and worm farming page for tips on getting started (refer to link below).

Waste Less Food

Visit the Foodwise website to find recipe suggestions for using leftovers in the fridge and reducing food waste.

Sustainable Living


You can also find additional information on various other topics on our Sustainable Living page (refer to link below).