How our Habits Contribute to Extra stuff at the Curb

With the holidays quickly approaching, we are all familiar with the process of making our lists, checking them twice, and buying everything – for those naughty and nice. While this time of year is full of celebration – it is also full of more stuff.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian households are generating and sending more items to landfill, a nearly seven percent increase in tonnage in 2012 (most recent data available) as compared to 2004 levels. A number of consumer trends can explain this growth, namely convenience/single service packaging and e-commerce.

“For the first time, online shopping is poised to beat in-store sales”

Convenience or single serving packaging is on the rise to satisfy the growing needs of the on-the-go consumer. Smaller packaging (single serve and multi-portion) lends itself to millennials in particular because it complements the on-the-go lifestyle, as well as controlling portion to limit food waste. Unfortunately, the consequence of the portioned packaging results in a greater amount of packaging waste generated. Another major trend that fits the convenience and on-the-go lifestyle is the proliferation of ecommerce, or online shopping.

In 2016, an estimated 1.61 billion people globally purchased items online resulting in total estimated global ecommerce amounting to $1.9 trillion U.S. dollars. This year for the first time, “online holiday shopping is poised to beat in-store sales.” This shift from in-store shopping has resulted in a significant increase in the generation of corrugated cardboard to get the item to your door. While ecommerce has grown as a trend independent of holiday shopping, it is important to note the amount of (extra) waste generated when we opt for the ease and convenience of buying online.

“Canadian send up to 45% more waste to landfill during the holidays”

The average Canadian sends up to 45% more waste to landfill during the holidays than the rest of the year. By contrast, Americans send up to 25% greater household waste and 33% more food waste over the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

The majority of this material is linked directly to the holidays, namely gift-wrap and related items. While the bulk of this material cannot be recycled (laminated wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows), their lifecycle can be extended beyond one season. We are not suggesting that consumers avoid all holiday wrap and bows, but rather that this year you consider some reuse. If every family in the US reused holiday wrapping for three gifts, and reused two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save enough paper materials to cover 45,000 football fields and the ribbon saved could tie a bow around our entire planet.

What does this mean for your family this holiday? That you will be able to buy conveniently, in quantities that suit your group – even if it is just two portions – to avoid food waste. Consumers are able to bundle their online orders to limit the number of extra corrugated cardboard containers being shipped per order rather than per item; and every family has the ability to promote change and reduce their holiday footprint by reusing a handful of ribbon and wrap.

Happy Holidays!