UK households throw away enough Christmas lights to circle the planet 12 times

Konnie Huq and family lead the charge for Give-Back January and the greenest Christmas ever

Media release, 13 December 2021

Konnie Huq and her family are today launching the Recycle Your Electricals Give-Back January campaign, the perfect antidote to the pre-Christmas annual peak spending on household electricals. Home organising guru and author Nicola Lewis, aka This Girl Can Organise, joined Konnie at the launch of the campaign. With an army of fans, the famous declutterer knows a thing or two about dehoarding.

The most traditional of Christmas scenes provides the campaign launch setting. As Konnie and her sons and Nicola and her daughters stepped inside the Give-Back January Snow Globe they found a snow-capped winter wonderland, a beautifully decorated tree and presents for loved ones scattered around it. 

The household electrical gifts under the tree are an illustration of the 2.2 million items we hoard each year as a result of our Christmas spending on gifts and replacement items. Take a closer look and you will notice they aren’t shiny and new, but old and pre-loved. 

There are Christmas lights (of course), par for the course at this time of year. But sadly, these twinkling beauties can sometimes come at a cost. An astonishing 35 million of us throw our Christmas lights away – enough to wrap around the Earth nearly 12 times, a distance that even Santa and the Reindeers can’t cover on Christmas Eve.

The Give-Back January Snow Globe illustrates the huge amount of electricals that are thrown away each year, items which could be donated to those in need or recycled. Campaign research revealed that nearly 2 million people either own a snow globe or will be buying one soon this Christmas, so the treasured Christmas decoration was the perfect way to highlight the hidden precious items in our homes.  

For those wanting to have the greenest Christmas ever, it is now time to get ready for Give-Back January. Rather than hoarding unwanted items at home, or worse still, throwing them in the bin, we should donate or recycle them.

Following COP26, some 12.5 million of us said that it had made us think about what we buy. New research conducted for Recycle Your Electricals by Opinium Research found that: 

  • 45% of us will buy more eco-friendly gifts
  • 35% of us will buy more eco-friendly decorations
  • 35% of us will try to reduce food waste
  • 34% of us will  buy fewer decorations
  • 31% of us will buy fewer gifts
  • 10% of us will eat a more vegetarian / vegan Christmas dinner.

Old unwanted electricals are the UK’s and the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, but anything with a plug, cable or a battery can be recycled. The Recycle Your Electricals campaign is calling on UK households to stop throwing away and hoarding their small old electricals and instead start doing something useful with them by donating or recycling them. 

Anyone looking to take part in this year’s Give-Back January campaign can go to www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk for more information, and to find their nearest recycling or donation points via a handy postcode finder

Konnie Huq said: “My family and I love Christmas. We also love tech (particularly my husband), so we often buy each other electrical items as gifts. We’re not alone in this; the work of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign has highlighted the levels of consuming spending over Black Friday and Christmas on small household electricals. Come January, this leaves mountains of redundant goods that either get hoarded at home or end up in landfill. Give Back January is providing the perfect antidote for this, we’ll be hunting out all our unwanted pieces and boxing them up before taking them to be donated in the new year. We want everyone to join in!”

Nicola Lewis added: “I see old electricals hoarded in people’s homes every day, particularly in the run up to Christmas when we’ve all been out buying presents for our loved ones. As well as helping people to organise their houses for the start of the new year, Give Back January provides a solution to the problem of waste electricals. To stop yourself being overwhelmed with things, a top tip would be to organise your own ‘5 days, 5 bags’ clear out. Pick a room a day and fill a box or a bag with all your old electricals. Then come January, take it to be donated to those in need or if it isn’t working, recycled.”

Scott Butler, the Executive Director of Material Focus, the organisation behind the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, said: “Many of us are now thinking about how we can make this the greenest Christmas ever, and following COP26, we aim to get that number even higher. Our second Give-Back January campaign encourages us all to do something useful with our old unwanted electricals by giving them to those in need or recycling them. Anything with a plug, battery or cable can be donated or recycled and we urge everyone to get involved with Give-Back January this year.”

The campaign would like to thank the GAP Group, MusicMagpie and Environcom, who donated unwanted electricals that helped us create the Snow Globe that has launched this year’s Give-Back January campaign. 

About the research

Research was conducted by Opinium from 19 to 23 November 2021. Research was carried out among a sample of 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ and has been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

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