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Deck the halls with cardboard boxes: Online shopping packaging waste booms in run up to Christmas

Online shopping packaging waste booms in run up to Christmas

An estimated 55.6million* packages were delivered to homes across the UK as a result of Black Friday, unwrapping a massive increase in household waste across the country according to new data by FirstPort.

With 84%** of consumers expecting to purchase gifts online in the run-up to Christmas, and one in six (16%) committing to buying all their gifts online, the UK’s leading residential property services provider is bracing itself for more recycling demand than ever before as households struggle to deal with the large volumes of packaging waste.

FirstPort has seen the number of parcels delivered to one of its largest managed developments increase by more than 95% compared to the same time last year, with a 103% increase over the Black Friday period***. The organisation expects this number to increase even further over the festive period and into 2022.

To support residents FirstPort is partnering with Recycle Now, the national recycling campaign for England, managed by global NGO WRAP, to help give consumers the confidence to recycle their Christmas packaging in a sustainable way.

Christian Phipps, FirstPort’s Sustainability Manager said: “Our shopping habits were already heading towards the flexibility and ease of online rather than in-store, and the pandemic has hit fast forward on this. We know for our residents it can feel much easier, and for some safer, to order Christmas gifts at the click of a button. We expect to receive even more parcel deliveries across four of our largest developments than we did last year, but this is leading to a significant amount of excess packaging waste for residents to dispose of. At some of our larger developments, we manage over 20 bin stores and in excess of 200 general waste and recycling bins, so we’re well prepared to support residents, but we do know that disposing of waste in an environmentally friendly way can often feel daunting.”

The research found that despite good intentions, over a third (37%) of householders say they struggle to recycle as much as they want to, and more than a quarter (28%) admit to letting their packaging waste build up for over a week, with one in 10 (11%) leaving it to clutter their house for two weeks or more. Worryingly, more than one in five Brits (21%) are still confused about what they can and can’t recycle and 6% don’t recycle at all.

Craig Stephens, Recycle Now Campaign Manager: “Christmas is a wonderful time of year and as a nation this year has shown we’ve continued to care about the impact our actions have on the environment more than ever before. We are now very much a nation of recyclers with nine out of 10 people recycling – which is fantastic. We want to encourage as many people as possible to keep up the great work they are doing, especially during the festive period. Our growing commitment to the environment is definitely a highlight of 2021 and will stand us all in good stead as we tackle the challenge of climate change.”

For consumers seeking to manage their online shopping waste in a sustainable way, FirstPort and WRAP have come together to offer the following advice –

Top tips for recycling your Christmas waste

  1. Recycle it right – Remember to flatten and fold cardboard, wash and squash plastic and place them in the correct bins.
  2. Strip the packaging – Before recycling, remove any sticky tape and decorations such as ribbons and bows as these cannot be recycled.
  3. Remove the plastic – Always remember that tape, polystyrene and plastic inserts need to be removed from cardboard packaging before they can be recycled.
  4. Cardboard compost – Egg boxes and rolls from kitchen towels and toilet rolls can be home composted, so if you’re out of room, why not try your hand at composting at home?
  5. The scrunch test – Do the scrunch test! If your local authority does collect wrapping paper for recycling, only non-foil paper will be accepted. To check, scrunch up the paper and if it doesn’t spring back it is non-foil and can be recycled.
  6. Reuse your boxes – Cardboard boxes can have wonderfully creative uses. Think about ways to reuse and restyle them, from makeshift playhouses for children to extra storage in your home.
  7. Recycle old Christmas lights – Old fairy lights can be recycled at household waste recycling centres. Some local authorities collect small electricals as part of their recycling collections and may also provide collection bins at other sites too, e.g. at supermarkets.
  8. Christmas decorations – Glass baubles are not recyclable. Broken glass baubles should be disposed of by wrapping and putting them in general waste. Plastic baubles are usually made from types of plastic not widely collected yet in the UK so should also go into general waste.
  9. Batteries – All those new toys and gadgets mean more batteries to recycle. Some local authorities collect batteries bagged separately with household recycling but there are also many battery recycling points in shops around town.
  10. Find your local recycling point – Not sure where to take your packaging waste, visit to find your nearest recycling point.

*According to consumer research, the average number of packages expected to be bought over the Black Friday weekend was 2. Multiply 2 by the number of UK households (27.8m) = 55,600,000.

**FirstPort partnered with Censuswide to survey 2,011 nationally representative people between 08.11.2021 – 10.11.2021.

*** FirstPort managed development Nine Elms Point received 3,317 parcels in November 2020 and 6,513 in November 2021. Nine Elms Point also received 1,055 parcels between 27th Nov – 3rd Dec 2020 and 2,137 between 26th Nov – 2nd Dec 2021. Data provided by Locale.