How to recycle your Christmas cards and other festive waste

By Paul Crewe on 30 December 2012

Christmas card recycling

While I sit at home watching the flames on my log burner, with just a few days to go until we hit the New Year, I have been thinking about what we have achieved over the past year in 2012. It’s been a year of great achievements and celebrations, from the Diamond Jubilee to the London 2012 Paralympic and Olympic Games, and we’ve also celebrated a few of our own Sainsbury’s successes along the way linked to our aim of being the UK’s greenest grocer.

Christmas card recycling bins will be in 500 stores throughout the country until the 15th January.

Most recently, I was very proud of my Team who took home two awards for leading in Energy Efficiency and Waste Management from the Sustainability Leaders Awards 2012 and last month we shared with our key stakeholders and our 20x20 Sustainability Plan and the progress we’ve made against the stretching goals and targets that we set ourselves. On the same day, we also unveiled some insightful findings about the emergence of New Fashioned Values amongst our customers. These findings brought to life our long-held belief that while people across all walks of life may have reduced their spending under the current economic climate, they actually care more about the world in which they live, including their impact on the environment. This is also born out in the Crewe Household with my wife and three daughters but more on that later. 

This means that our customers are seeking not only great value, but also quality and sustainability, which is great news for my team who work really hard to find ways to reduce our impact on the environment. This includes helping to make our customers’ lives easier by providing convenient ways for them to live more sustainably too, like providing recycling facilities at our stores. This is really good business sense – it’s good for the environment, by reducing the amount of household waste ending up in landfill, and it’s responding to what our customers expect. It’s also an area we are very passionate about - last year we achieved total zero food waste to landfill from our convenience, main stores, offices and distribution centres and we’re on track to achieve total zero waste to landfill too from these businesses by Easter 2013, which will be a very big achievement for a business of our scale.

So back to the Crewe Household. As I look around my own home, following this year’s Christmas celebrations, I can easily see how I and my family can make great use of some of the facilities available at our stores. From Christmas cards, used batteries, wrapping paper and cardboard to cans, plastic and glass bottles, it seems our homes are havens for waste this time of year. Luckily at Sainsbury’s, we believe that Christmas isn’t just about one day. It’s about all the days, including the ones when the decorations and the cards come down and we’re faced with tackling the additional waste that really does come with the festive season. That’s why we’re offering customers a number of hassle-free ways to minimise their impact on landfill and in reality, many of these are in place all year round to help our customers live more sustainable lives.  

Specifically for the festive period we have introduced a simple way for customers to help make an even bigger difference when it comes to recycling Christmas cards – the cards collected in stores are recycled and customers will also be helping to support forests in another way. They can simply take their cards into a participating store to be recycled and Sainsbury’s will make a donation to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) based on the volume of cards collected.

Christmas card recycling box

We’re doing this for a number of reasons – to support customer recycling, to help divert waste from landfill, and to contribute towards the safeguarding of the world’s forests through the work of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Last year almost 50 tonnes of Christmas cards were recycled from our store collection points, resulting in a donation of almost £7,000 which is invaluable for the FSC education and outreach work. So once you’ve taken your cards down and you need to pop into store for some milk or doing your weekly shop why not take along the cards – our FSC Christmas card recycling bins will be in 500 stores throughout the country until the 15 January and together we can really help to make a difference. 

Another area where we offer help all year round is by providing a safe way for customers to dispose of batteries. We were the first UK retailer to offer in-store collections and over 21 million batteries have been recycled in this way in the past year - equivalent to over 50 per cent of all the batteries we sold in that time.

We also offer recycling banks at over 300 stores to support customer recycling and complement existing local authority kerbside collections in our communities – these will undoubtedly help our customers with their hassle-free post-Christmas clear outs. For example, Sainsbury’s has partnered with Oxfam for 16 years and between November 2011 and October 2012 we collected over 9 million items of clothing for Oxfam through our clothing banks.  We also collected around 1.8 million books and other items such as CDs and DVDs. This provides customers with another convenient way of making donations to Oxfam plus they can be assured that their donations are helping to support Oxfam’s emergency and development work reaching a staggering 15 million people in 94 countries.

So if like me you’re interested in easing the burden on landfill these recycling banks can be used to help with some of our festive household waste, which as you can see below is quite staggering to say the least:

  • WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimates that the amount of wrapping paper thrown away in the UK at Christmas could stretch around the equator nine times
  • Every year the UK throws out an estimated 4,500 tonnes of tin foil over the Christmas period
  • 13,350 tonnes of glass is thrown out in the UK during the festive season – from champagne and sherry bottles to mincemeat and cranberry sauce jars. Recycling these could save 4,200 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to taking around 1,300 cars off the road for one whole year

In 2013, my team will continue to remain focused on reducing our impact on landfill and helping our supply partners and customers to do the same.  

So even before the New Year resolutions are made, if like many of our customers you also care about the world and our impact on the environment, then hopefully you will see that that are really simple and convenient ways of recycling available to support you in Sainsbury’s stores and that they can help your family live more sustainably right now and throughout 2013 and beyond.

I am signing off now as I am about to take my family’s festive period recycling to the Sainsbury’s Store that I have adopted in Fairfield Park in Bedford which includes: Christmas cards, wrapping paper, cardboard (mainly from chocolates) and quite a lot of bottles and glass jars, plus also quite a lot of articles of clothing that will go into the Oxfam Bank, seeing as I managed to get yet another mountain of new socks for Christmas and have no room for the old ones in my drawer.

Happy New Year!

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5 comments for “Festive recycling”

  • Sophie Killey13 November 2013 at 11:58:17

    Hi Paul, I think this is a great initiative, will you be running the same thing this year?

  • Paul Crewe13 November 2013 at 17:18:16

    Hi Sophie - thank you for posting. Just wanted to let you know that we will again be recycling Christmas cards in our stores this year. Starting from December 26 through to January 14, you'll be able to drop your cards off for recycling in our stores.

  • steve nippard06 January 2014 at 11:00:58

    Its nice to know where and when you can recycle after the festivities for numerous items.

  • SWilkes28 October 2014 at 15:38:19

    Hello, will you be running the card recycling scheme in stores again this year?

  • Paul Crewe28 October 2014 at 17:07:36

    Yes, I can confirm that we are running the Christmas Card recycling programme again this year.

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About the author

  • Paul CreweI am responsible for significantly reducing Sainsbury's operational and embodied carbon footprint.