Stop wasting: a greener festive season for South Africans

The public are encouraged to be environmentally conscious this festive season, as the surge in waste puts a considerable strain on already-burdened waste management systems and landfills.

The public are encouraged to be environmentally conscious this festive season, as the surge in waste puts a considerable strain on already-burdened waste management systems and landfills.

Published Dec 19, 2023


As festive celebrations take centre stage, South Africans are urged to consider the environmental impact of their festivities, as with increased food consumption, gift purchases, and single-use decorations, up to 30% more waste is being generated, straining waste management systems and landfills.

This is according to Fibre Circle, the government-recognised producer responsibility organisation (PRO) for paper and paper packaging in South Africa.

“It’s great to get together with family and friends to celebrate, but in all the excitement, people tend to forget their impact on the environment,” said marketing and communications manager Dumisani Khumalo.

“In fact, our figures show that South Africans generate up to 30% more waste during the festive season. This surge puts a considerable strain on our already-burdened waste management systems and landfills.”

The reason behind this large increase in waste, the PRO said, could be linked to the fact that people are all buying more food for the many celebrations, and were also buying gifts –and then wrapping them. Christmas decorations are often single use. Food and packaging waste thus increases, and people also seem to get a bit more careless about how they dispose of their waste.

The City added that food waste was a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbated the effects of climate change.

“When food is wasted, not only are valuable resources such as water, energy and land wasted, but when leftovers and scraps end up in landfill, they produce a potent greenhouse gas that can accelerate climate change. As such, the City encourages residents to practise careful planning when it comes to their holiday meals. Smart shopping and thoughtful meal preparation can help avoid overstocking and excess consumption,” the City said.

“Embrace reusability,” said Khumalo.

“The festive season is time for celebration and togetherness, but the environment shouldn’t have to suffer. Just by making the right choices, we can mitigate our impact on the environment over this period, and even start some new traditions that make this time even more special and memorable.”

Tips from PRO to reduce food waste during the holiday season:

Embrace reusability: Keep a lookout for suitable decorations for your tree that will last, and maybe even make your own. Pine cones or seed pods can be spray-painted to make unique decorations. What could be more heart-warming than making decorations with your kids or grandkids? Each year, there’s a real sense of excitement when the decorations are unpacked and old favourites make their appearance!

Buy mindfully: Try to choose gifts and wrapping that are sustainable and can be recycled.

Plan your menus: Minimise food waste by planning quantities as accurately as possible, and put any waste into the compost heap rather than the rubbish bin. If you do have more substantial leftovers, there are many hungry mouths nearby.

Separate your waste: Make sure you separate your waste into the categories relevant to local recycling capabilities: glass, metal, paper, plastic and packaging. If your municipality doesn’t collect this recyclable waste, then a quick trip to the recycling buy-back centre is indicated. Please don’t litter.

Expand your holiday traditions: Making your own decorations is one thing we’ve already mentioned, but what about making a morning or afternoon clean-up of the neighbourhood or local park a holiday tradition? You could ask the neighbours along too, and spread the vibes.

Cape Times