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How Much We Waste At Christmastime

How Much We Waste At Christmastime

It’s easy to overdo it at Christmastime. We overspend, overeat, and end up wasting more than we do any other time of year.

In fact, our waste increases by around 30% at Christmastime.1

Rudolph with Christmas Wastage

The main offenders? All of that wrapping paper, packaging, and food that goes uneaten (seriously, what family of 4 is going to eat an entire leg of ham and 5kg of prawns before the New Year?).

So, why are Aussies having such an impact on the environment during the silly season? And how can we reduce our Christmas waste for a more environmentally friendly holiday period?


A Christmas Culture of Excess

Christmas Stockings

Endless platters of cold meats and Christmas-themed sweets as far as the eye can see. Strategically stacked gifts resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A sea of red and green wrapping paper scrunched-up and sprinkled across the carpet. Yep – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

When it comes to Christmas cheer, it seems more is more. But what’s driving this culture of excess?

Many Australians are (literally) buying into the pressure to go “all out” at Christmastime. Whether it’s a desire to impress relatives, a pressure on parents to make each Christmas bigger and better than the last, or simply to keep up with the Joneses, what’s meant to be a time for family fun quickly turns into a struggle to afford the “perfect” Christmas. And the environment is struggling to handle the inevitable waste that comes with this culture of excess and over-indulgence.


Christmas Waste Facts Australia

Christmas Waste Facts Australia

From unwanted gifts to uneaten food, Australia’s Christmas waste facts are hard to swallow.

  • Australians are now collectively spending around $11 billion a year on Christmas gifts.2
  • Aussies receive over 20 million unwanted gifts at Christmastime.3
  • 86% of Aussies find Christmas puts a strain on their finances, with buying Christmas gifts reported as the major cause (66%) of this pressure.3
  • Australians use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper during Christmas – enough to wrap around Earth’s equator nearly 4 times.4
  • In Australia alone, over 5 million tonnes of food ends up as landfill each year – enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.5
  • Throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90-minute shower.5
  • 90% of Aussies usually discard over 25% of their food during the festive period (December 1 – January 1).6

Christmas Wrapping Paper Wasted

Ensure you know how to recycle appropriately, or are getting your rubbish to the right place here.


How to Reduce Christmas Waste

Recycling at Christmas

So, how can you do your part to make this Christmas merry for your family and the environment?

Well, you can start with the simple steps, such as:

  • Sending e-cards and emails instead of Christmas cards and letters
  • Wrapping gifts in cloth or a tea towel instead of wrapping paper
  • Gifting experiences instead of things
  • Making space in your fridge and freezer for leftovers.

Tips for Reducing Christmas Waste

We reached out to food and travel writer and contributing editor at delicious. magazine, Kate Gibbs, for some deeper insight to reduce food waste this Christmas.

Kate explains that not only does Christmastime impact our wallets and savings, but it’s the environment that’s really paying for the increase of waste during December.

“When we waste food, it breaks down in landfill and produces methane, a greenhouse gas,” she says. “But in throwing away food, we also waste the resources used to grow and create it; think water, soil and energy, as well as the energy it takes to process, package, and transport food to wherever we buy it.”

“At Christmas, the situation becomes direr, simply because of how much food is wasted at this time of year.”

Kate recommends cutting back on processed food and its accompanying packaging (we’re looking at you, miniature, individually wrapped chocolates and candy canes). She suggests making food from scratch instead, such as homemade truffles, Christmas-themed bliss balls, and trifle.

“Surely Christmas can be a time to turn things around, be a little more thoughtful, and a little more giving to the environment as well as the ones you love.”

It’s important to be mindful of how your food made it to your plate.

  • How much water was used?
  • How much packaging and plastic was required?
  • And how many miles did it travel?

These are a few things to consider when being conscious of waste.

“Christmas is a time for giving, not gluttony.”


For more ideas to reduce your environmental footprint this Christmas, check out this handy article.



  1. australianethical.com.au
  2. Commonwealth Bank Christmas Consumer Spending 2017 Study via The Sydney Morning Herald
  3. Gumtree Smart Santa Survey 2016 via Huffington Post
  4. medianet.com.au
  5. ozharvest.org
  6. sbs.com.au


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