Plastic Pollution at Christmas Is Crackers

Plastic Pollution at Christmas Is Crackers

Plastic expert tests popular Christmas cracker sets for their environmental impact.

With the recent news that, from 2020, John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners will stop selling Christmas crackers containing plastic toys, the pressure is on for other UK retailers to follow suit and reduce their environmental impact.

Figures suggest an extra 30% of waste is generated over the festive period1 and, with Christmas 2019 still to contend with, leading savings site VoucherCodes.co.uk has put a number of crackers from across the high street to the test to see how eco-friendly they are.

Friends of the Earth Lead Plastic Campaigner, Julian Kirby commented: “Christmas crackers come with excess packaging that can’t always be recycled, as well as a lot of single-use tat, so this is one festive product that you should think twice about. There are a number of things you might want to look into when buying your crackers, including whether toys come in plastic wrappers, whether they contain microplastic glitter and if they have novelty toys that will end up in landfill.”

Assessing options from a range of retailers, the research found the majority include more harmful elements than good. While there was no stand-out winner, Tesco’s Gold Cube Christmas Crackers included no notable ‘good’ points and are instead filled with plastic in both the packaging and the contents.

Weighing up the analysis, Kirby said: “John Lewis & Partners, Debenhams, Liberty, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose & Partners crackers contain longer-lasting toys, but they’re let down by the plastic packets they come in. We know Waitrose is working towards plastic-free crackers for 2020 so we look forward to seeing that next year. And, while Sainsbury’s limits waste by removing the plastic window on its Home Luxury Cracker box, the crackers themselves are covered in glitter, which is a microplastic that can be harmful to the environment.”

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, said: “With most of these crackers you get what you pay for. Tesco has the lowest cost per cracker at 33p – but Julian’s verdict is that they’re not sustainable due to unclear recycling instructions and single-use toys. On the other hand, Waitrose includes built-to-last toys and the packaging is widely recyclable, but at £5 per cracker they’re one of the priciest options.

“My recommendation, if you want to avoid the plastic waste crackers produce, is to make your own. There are lots of great kits available to buy, you just need to pick what you put into the cracker – which means you can decide how much you spend. It also means you can put something inside you know people will use (or eat, I’m a fan of chocolate in crackers!).”

 

The Results

Debenhams Plain and wreath print Christmas crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys

Bad points:
• No mention of recyclable materials on packaging
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

John Lewis Traditions Luxury Christmas Crackers

 Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• Widely recyclable paper box

Bad points:
• Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

Liberty London Santa Claus Christmas Crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys

Bad points:
• No mention of recyclable materials on packaging
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

M&S Gold Christmas Crackers

Good points:
• Widely recyclable paper box

Bad points:
• Novelty plastic toys
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Council policy
• Toys come in plastic packet

 

Sainsbury’s Home Luxury Cracker – Berry Christmas Print

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• No plastic in outer packaging

Bad points:
Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Toys come in plastic packet
• Unclear recycling information

 

Tesco Gold Cube Christmas Crackers

Good points:

• N/A

Bad points:
• Novelty plastic toys
• Outer packaging has non-recyclable plastic window
• Toys come in plastic packet
• Unclear recycling information

 

Waitrose Suede Ribbon Crackers

Good points:
• Built-to-last toys
• Toys not wrapped in plastic packaging
• Widely recyclable packaging

Bad points:

• Microplastic glitter on crackers
• Outer packaging has plastic window

 

 

Top tips when choosing your crackers for a more sustainable Christmas

Does the packaging contain an unnecessary plastic window? Generally, the plastic windows on the front of packaging tend not to be recyclable, and for those that are, you can’t guarantee that they won’t just be sent to landfill.

• Check your local council’s recycling guidelines. Each council has different policies when it comes to what they will and won’t recycle, so double check what will be picked up in your local area.

• Opt for paper crackers rather than those decorated with glitter. It is a microplastic that is easily released into the environment, so should be avoided as it does not biodegrade and can be harmful to wildlife.

• Is the packaging made of recycled material? Using recycled card limits further deforestation.

• Does the packaging have an FSC logo on it? This symbol means that the materials are sourced from a forest that meets the required management practices and forest stewardship standard for sustainability.

• Are the toys multi-use or are they going to be thrown away after the meal? A metal keyring, for example, is far more likely to be used rather than a novelty plastic moustache that ends up in the bin – and all items should be loose within the crackers, rather than in plastic packets.

• Do I need to order the crackers online? Getting items delivered creates further packaging, such as unnecessarily large cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Collecting direct from store means you can ditch the excess, single-use materials and either carry them home in a bag-for-life or, even better, just the packaging they come in.

 

To hear more of Julian Kirby’s analysis, check out the VoucherCodes.co.uk video: https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/blog/5-simple-swaps-for-a-more-sustainable-christmas-27092.html

To help Friends of the Earth’s campaign to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans, sign the petition.

Susannah Griffin
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