Christmas Food waste


In addition to the page on  winter composting techniques I have included this section on Christmas Waste detailing how to reduce food waste and composting different seasonal waste.

Each year we in the UK throw away about one third of all the food we buy at least half of which could have been eaten. It is hard to believe but the average UK household is estimated to throw away about £325 of edible food every year, and about £20,000 worth in a lifetime.

The total household Christmas food bill is estimated to be about £170 with a third of us confessing to having helped ourselves to “an excessive amount” of food over the festive season.  This would be bad enough if it was all eaten but 35% admit to throwing away more food at Christmas than at any other time of year.

It is estimated that almost 10% of every Christmas meal is wasted. This the equivalent to the UK chucking £64 million in the bin each Christmas. Waste on this scale should not be caused by individuals, we have a government to do that for us.

It is estimated that we celebrate the festive season by wasting the equivalent of:

  • 17.2m Brussels sprouts
  • 11.9m carrots
  • 11.3m roast potatoes
  • 10.9m parsnips
  • 9.8m cups of gravy
  • 7.9m slices of turkey or 2 million turkeys,
  • 7.9m cups of stuffing
  • 7.1m pigs in blankets
  • 7.5m mince pies
  • 7.4m slices of Christmas pudding or 5m Christmas puddings


This is an incredible amount of unnecessary waste, all of which could be avoided by careful buying, food storage and cooking leftovers with any food being home composted using the appropriate food composting equipment e.g., a Hotbin, Green Johanna, Jora 125 or a Bokashi system if space and the amount of wasted cooked food is limited

Composting food waste

Despite the planning and good intentions there will be some food waste, including cooked food, so I you do not have one why not add a food composter to the Christmas list.

 All the items of food listed above can be composted in a Jorra 125 (which is specifically designed to compost food waste) or a multipurpose hot composting system such as a Hotbin or Green Johanna.

Not mentioned in the lists of food waste above are gravy, and sauces. Normally it is not advisable to add liquids to compost bins, but they will take “plate scrapping” quantities of gravy, cranberry sauce, etc. if mixed with shredded If adding large amounts of food waste to a compost bin add plenty of bulking agent (wood chip, wood pellets or sawdust). Uneaten nuts e.g. chestnuts can be smashed with a hammer and composted with the other food. Natural corks can be added but will take a time to break down and might need returning to the bin for a second session when the compost is harvested. 

 It is often said that orange, satsumas and clementine peel should not be added to composting bins but while these are not suitable for wormeries they can be composted in a convention bin as part of a balance diet with peelings from winter vegetables and carbon rich “browns” such as cardboard packaging from Christmas gifts as, Christmas cracker inners. Christmas wrapping paper (non-metallic/glossy/plastic/waxy) can be scrunched up and added to the mix.  

 For the Hotbin absorbent browns such as shredded paper should also be added at the rate of two or three generous handfuls per 5 litre caddy of food waste.

With the Green Johanna add one-part garden waste to two parts kitchen waste in layers stirring the top garden waste, or shredded paper layer with the aerating stick provided. While the Hotbin is made from insulated material the green Johanna needs additional insulation to keep it operating in cold weather Great Green Systems sell a winter jacket or it can be insulated with layers of bubble wrap.

The Jora is, what I call a   tombola style, tumbler which turns/. aerates easily and is designed as a food composter. It is recommended to use compressed sawdust pellets as the bulking agent at a ratio of 1 caddie of pellets:10 of food waste. This absorb the liquid, provide a carbon source and does not add much to volume in the bin. 

If there is only a relatively small amount of food waste this can be dealt with using an indoor Bokashi system which will ferment the food to a material that can be added to a” normal” garden compost bin

 Real Christmas trees can be shredded and composted, although the needles may take some time (C:N ratio of pine needles 80:1) so some recommend composting them separately, or that they be used as a mulch.  Some use the needles on muddy garden paths.

If the branches are too thick to shred using a garden shredder, they can be used to form a blanket to protect plants that are susceptible to windburn, plants that are marginally hardy in your area, and those susceptible to early frost plants.  


Most Councils will collect Christmas trees for composting


Reducing Christmas Food Waste



As well as being a time of too much tinsel, telly and corny eighties tunes – Christmas is also when many of us waste more food than usual.

With that in mind Love Food Hate Waste have put together their top five tips to help you make the most of the festive fare in your kitchen.


The cornerstone of the Christmas dinner has a lot to give, but after your five-hundredth turkey sandwich you might be feeling like a change... From pasties to soups and stroganoff, something from our wide range of leftover recipes is guaranteed to spark your interest. And don’t forget you can freeze the cooked meat before you make any of these delicious recipes too. Simply wrap it up in portion-sized amounts and put a label on so you don’t forget what it contains.

For more handy food-saving tips for the festive period and beyond are on the Love Food Hate waste recipe section.


After the relatives have gone and the decorations have come down, the Christmas cake is still going strong! Check use-by dates on shop bought ones, but homemade Christmas cakes can keep for a good couple of months. Simply keep it in an airtight container. If you haven’t made yours yet, there’s still time! Check out this  Last Minute Christmas Cake recipe


  It can be hard to resist special offers in December, meaning you can end up with more of these divisive little orbs than you need after Christmas dinner is done. Bubble and squeak is quick and easy  just has to be for Boxing Day anyway?


No classic Christmas dinner would be complete without bread sauce. The great news is that it’s a perfect opportunity to use up any unused or leftover stale bread by turning it into breadcrumbs. There’s a great and simple recipe for bread sauce.

 As well as being a classic dish, we also classically make too much of it. Fear not, freeze it! That’s right; as long as it hasn't been frozen before, by all means freeze bread sauce in either a sealed bag or airtight container to re-heat later.


This stinky Christmas staple can divide taste buds, meaning it is left wasting on the cheeseboard. The great news is there’s more to Stilton that meets the nose! You can use leftover chunks to make delicious canapés for New Year’s Eve like  White Stilton & Apricot Toasts.

 Or crumble onto recipes that call for a cheddar topping like our Creamy Vegetable Crumble, or quiche. Stilton also freezes brilliantly. Simply cut into easy to handy portions, wrap in cling film or foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge for about 24 hours before use to stop the cheese becoming too crumbly.

 Christmas recipes :


Composting Other Christmas Waste


Natural corks can be composted but will take a time to break down and might need returning to the bin for a second session when the compost is harvested. 

Christmas cards

If the card looks as if it contains plastic or laminated materials do a scrunch test. If it does not stay scrunched the card cannot be composted or recycled.  Some cards will have glitter added (see below) this should be sent to landfill but the backs of paper Christmas cards  without a coating or glitter  can be composted or added to the L.A. bag or box recycling collection. Christmas cards are also recycled by councils via the paper recycling bin However, if as mentioned above they have foil or glitter on them they should be sent to landfill.  The volume of waste wrapping can be reduced by giving presents in bags that  can be reused next year and save on paper and waste. Paper cards can be cut up to make gift tags for next year.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees can be composted but it is advisable to shred them first to increase the surface area exposed to the composting microbes and speed decomposition. If a shredder is not available   branches can be cut into small “thumb” size pieces but these will be slow to compost and it is easier donate the tree to the Local Authority  to be shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks. Local authorities often arrange drop-off points or special collections of 'real' trees in early January. Check your local authority website for more information. If the council does not offer a system for dealing with Christmas trees they can be  cut into small pieces and  put in the garden  waste bin.

Pine needles can be composted or turned to leafmold but they will be slow to decompose and any significant quantities are bested treated separately form deciduous leaves.

Unfortunately, artificial trees, most of which are made from the dreaded PVC plastic, face only one possible destination when their final day arrives: The landfill. If you have an artificial tree, the best thing to do is use it as many seasons as possible, or donate it to someone else who will.

  Gift tags etc

Tags made from card can be cut up and composted having first removed any plastic ties. Plastic or foil tags will not compost.



Electronic items may not immediately come to mind as being Christmas waste but so many people get new electronic items at Christmas gifts large numbers of  electrical items  are disposed of immediately after the festive season. Use any upcycling services in your area if not most recycling centres will have a separate are for working electrical items


Ribbons and decorations

Ribbons, bows may be made of natural fibres in which case they can be composted but many will contain  foil or plastic and  cannot be composted or recycled.


Cardboard, particularly corrugated boxes, are an excellent source of carbon rich “browns” they should be torn or cut into smallish pieces and scrunched up when added to the bin.


 Paper napkins and party hats from the crackers can be composted


Wrapping paper  and boxes

 Paper and card are a good source of “browns” and can help create air pockets to the compost bin. Plastic tape should be removed from the wrapping or envelopes as the tape does not breakdown during composting.  Some paper and cards willcontain plastic or laminated materials these cannot be composted or recycled. Scrunch the item up in your hand. If it stays 'scrunched' it can be composted or recycled.


Christmas wreaths made from plant  materials can be composted after the any  glue, plastic and  wiring are removed.  If leaves have been coated with glitter discard them to landfill . Most council will accept “clean” Christmas wreaths as garden waste..


Wood ash from open fires or wood burners can be composted.


Cocktail sticks although small can be added to the bin. To avoid pets trying to eat them and injuring themselves put the sticks into a container and empty it directly into the kitchen caddy

Holly, ivy and mistletoe can be composted,




Large numbers of Christmas items are decorated with glitter, including from cards, wrapping paper and decorations. Most of the glitter contains microplastic such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)  do not compost or recycle items containing glitter put into a sealed container such as a plastic bag that is being binned anyway the landfill collection system  and do not buy any next year.

there is now Biodegradable glitter that is made from a certified compostable film that adheres to the European (EN13432) and the American (ASTM D6400) standards.
Eco glitter is made of a cellulose film mainly derived from eucalyptus trees from sustainably sourced FSC plantations and is designed to break-down in the sewage system. The product sold in the USA is certified as home compostable. ( .   so in future years there is hope for more information:hat environmentally friendly cards will be available.

Waitrose is to ban glitter from all its own products by Christmas 2020 in response to the mounting concerns about plastic pollution. This covers s own-brand cards, wrap, crackers, tags, flowers and plants.  Plastic-free biodegradable alternatives will be used to create the same sparkle.

Paper Chains

If you have made paper chains, you cannot recycle them unless they are just plain white paper. Paper chains with prints or colours are not ideal for recycling and are probably best off in the compost bin.

Baubles Aren’t Usually Recyclable

Glass baubles are not suitable for the blue bin and will need to be wrapped up and placed in a normal black bin if they break. Plastic baubles, unless labelled recyclable, will not be suitable for the blue bin so you may have to throw broken ones away in the normal black bin.