/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

Can you have yourselves a very sustainable Christmas?

Christmas waste

It’s the most wasteful time of the year – so what do you do with your leftovers once the big day has been and gone?

The chances are that today you’re reflecting on the slight over-consumption from yesterday’s feast and slightly shocked by the mountains of leftovers – if not, then well done you!

Earlier this year, we talked about recycling and waste and wondered if our efforts are a bit rubbish. Well, I was prompted to think about Christmas waste after reading about a Finnish energy company that’s set to turn some of the country’s Christmas leftovers into renewable diesel.

It calculates that the waste fat from a single joint of roast ham, which it will collect from households and restaurants in recyclable cardboard boxes, can be converted into about two miles’ worth of fuel for a car.

And with seven million kilogrammes of ham cooked each Christmas in Finland, the company reckons it can produce enough fuel to power a car driving three times around the world.

What a waste

It got me thinking about the amount of waste my own household produces at this time of year – and, more importantly, what I could do to reduce its impact on the environment.

It’s been reported that over Christmas, UK households generate around 30% more waste. Collectively, we’ll throw away 13,350 tonnes of glass; 4,500 tonnes of foil and 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper.

We’ll also buy some 10 million turkeys. 370 million mince pies and 25 million Christmas puds – on average, we’ll end up binning a quarter of this.

But most of this can either be recycled or upcycled.

Reusing Christmas leftovers

Take the food leftovers. My family’s never been one to waste tonnes of grub, so what’s not eaten on Christmas Day will get turned into something else.

The veg peelings will go on the compost heap, and the leftover veg will pop up in something like bubble & squeak. The turkey will become a curry and maybe some pies that’ll be popped in the freezer for a quick meal later in the year (when turkey’s a novelty again).

For inspiration, you could have a look at Jamie Oliver’s tips on using up left over food. Or you could use Love Food Hate Waste’s portion planner, so you don’t buy/make too much food in the first place.

Then there’s the wrapping paper. My nan used to despair at us kids tearing into our presents while she’d carefully unwrap hers so she could save the paper for the following year. You could also help keep the wrapping paper mountain down by creating your own using festive cuttings from newspapers/magazines that you’d ordinarily put in the recycling after reading.

With the cards, you could follow my nan’s lead and use them as gift tags the following year. Or, if you’re remotely crafty, cut them down to create your own handmade cards/decorations/advent calendars the following year.

And while glass is easily recyclable, why not keep a few of the empty jars/bottles for when you make jam/chutney/sloe gin for the next Christmas?

Your tips

What are your top tips for reducing your waste at Christmas? Do you get inventive with your leftovers?


Food waste is an abomination. Planning pre-purchase is the start. Cooking for those present, knowing who eats what, and how much of everything to prepare is also important. Finally having a plan for food that’s not been eaten and needs to be kept helps to make the post meal clean up productive. I could go further with a recycle box for the scrapings, peel and bones, and I make all sorts of excuses for not doing this. Somehow food laying around until bin day is off putting and sometimes I’m not there to put it out. Our local fox enjoys these bins and knows just how to decorate the road over night. So I can’t wear a halo, but if it is edible it is almost certainly eaten. Paper, tin, card, glass and plastic go to be recycled as they do in most of the U.K. If my rubbish bag is heavier than my recycle bag I get annoyed. Things are not so cut and dried when I’m caring and my sister has a different agenda. We are both fairly good and I suppose she makes up for my shortcomings. This mind set is not just for Christmas and if employed for the other fifty one weeks it becomes second nature even unto the turkey and trimmings.


If anything is guaranteed to produce waste its the combination of turkey, sprouts and parsnips followed by Christmas pud. It’s only possible virtue is that it’s different to what people eat every other day of the year.


Sounds like another roast turkey dinner John.
🍗 ☺️


Well, we had sirloin steak this year with a selection of country vegetables excluding parsnips, although we did have some sprouts which she cooks properly so they are both soft and tasty. Some I had recently in a rather exclusive eating establishment were distinctly al dente. This was followed by luxury ice cream and jelly! No waste whatsoever.


We had rib-eye steaks with jacket spuds and coleslaw. A table-top grill comes in handy.


Well, we were unable to eat both our Chicken and Beef joints on Xmas day. The reason is simply that the chicken emerged in a pool of blood and the beef was almost inedible apparently (only our boys have that). Not a disaster, of course: it’ll all be re-purposed into a curry, but why did it fall apart so spectacularly?

We have a nice new Neff double oven, bought only a few months ago as a W? best buy. However, one would hope that the testers for W? would do their jobs more thoroughly – one being to read the instruction manual.

The Neff’s lower oven is recommended for roasting (it’s the larger, anyway) and has no fewer than nine options on the dial, and looks complex, so the obvious answer is to find out which setting to use for chicken roasting – a potentially dangerous task. Fortunately the manual has the instruction where it’s clear they recommend the ‘Circo Roasting’ setting for chicken. Okay so far, but then, for extra safety, we turn to the page on Roasting where there’s no sign of the Circo Roasting whatsoever. Now, this is slipshod on the part of Neff, but that’s why I assumed we have Which? – to find out about this sort of dangerous error and alert us. That they didn’t was the reason why our entire xmas dinner became vegetarian.


Oh dear @ian, sorry to hear that. We had a similar situation last year when the thermostat on the oven decided to pack in. Turkey came out very pale (you could say anaemic) despite being in the oven for longer than recommended. Put it back in but it still didn’t brown. After about five hours cooking, we decided it must be done, but by then we couldn’t get a knife through it and ended up with what can only be described as breadcrumbs for breast meat and legs dripping in blood. I’ll ask our experts about your own issue when everyone’s back in the office.


And what a day for the thermostat to pack in… Well, these things happen. Nice veggie lunch, though.


Oh dear, I am sorry it all turned out a bit Naff (oooops Neff) on Christmas Day Ian. Hope the curry turned out more enjoyable. My daughter in law cooked a lovely turkey breast (organic) complete with my favourite roasted parsnips. My sherry trifle which I made on Christmas Eve went down very well in spite of the custard necessitated eventually having to be put through a sieve in order to remove the lumps which just wouldn’t disappear with constant mixing!

Back home again, I’m afraid I’ve really hit the Hotel Chocolat today, a present from my daughter……..chocolate heaven! Christmas TV highlight for me was the London Concert by Andre Dieu on Channel 5 on Christmas Eve……..wonderful! Not a d