Reducing plastic and packaging waste this holiday season

Updated: Apr 28, 2019


It has been approximately 5 months since adjusting to a new lifestyle after the implementation of Queensland’s “plastic bag ban” regulation, joining the other states/territories (except New South Wales…) for a greener Australia. Personally, reflecting, the initial inconveniences have now been long forgotten and carrying re-useable shopping bags have become routine. As such, practising eco-friendly habits is not as difficult and daunting as it seems, though the hardest part is starting that small change.



With a 30-day countdown till Christmas, we are all busy preparing for the highlight of this holiday season — gifting presents. Whilst it is a perfect way to express appreciation and gratitude to our loved ones, tight schedules and short timeframes in organising often leads us to overlook the true meaning and focus on the simple act of giving. For that reason, we find ourselves gravitating towards bulk-pack cards to repetitively sign and mass distribute, fancy wrapping papers to drop people’s jaws and overly-packaged large presents solely for the wow factor. As our trolleys fill up more and more with these items, our wallets suffer from all the expenses, but that’s not all; our environment suffers greatly too.


There is no doubt that toys of various sorts are at the top of many children’s wish lists. Parents try hard to preserve their belief in Santa by fulfilling these wants, even if they know kids will grow out of them in a couple years time. The real issue arises once all those Barbie dolls sit in a box collecting dust, and abandoned LEGO pieces wait to be stepped on. Sure, you can donate or pass them down to another person, but it is only a temporary solution as at one point they will be thrown away. Since most toys are synthesised with complex plastic, it will essentially never decompose and thus almost impossible to recycle. Not to mention the amount of batteries these gadgets go through to power them! So here is a question I would like to ask before you step out that door for Christmas shopping this year: do you want to give your children short-lived happiness by buying them their favourite toy, or a long-lasting happiness of giving them a future by preserving the environment?


Hence, we need to start encouraging children to move away from this consumerist mindset and help find enjoyment in building their own toys and gadgets. Not only will this allow them to recognise the lasting effects of what appears to be an innocent block of plastic, but also nurture their creativity (important STEM skills too!) and of course — the unforgettable memories you will make as you spend time with your child/ren making these one-and-only toys. Eventually, you will find that Christmas presents do not always have to be from stores, although temptations of 50% sale tickets and banners can be hard to resist.


An unavoidable part of Christmas presents apart from choosing the physical gift, is the decorating aspect involving wrapping papers, ribbons and supplementary cards. Whilst some people like to carefully rip their presents, most are too excited and jump straight in by tearing it into pieces. Study has found that a country gets through more than 40 million sticky tape rolls and trash almost 100 million bags of packaging during holiday season (Francis, 2017). Similar to factory toys, most of these materials can not be recycled nor decomposed due to their composition. Or, they contribute to carbon dioxide production from burning which leads to Greenhouse gas effect and links to global warming. So I strongly suggest making a little switch starting now. It can be as simple as:


  • Buying recycled paper rolls then spicing it up with your own illustrations or art (get your kids to be involved if you need help with artistic talent!)

  • Using magazine pages with modern photography or designs

  • Newspapers with comic strips or sports sections

  • Boxes with lids which can be kept for other storage purposes afterwards

  • Fabric such as tie-de linen, silk, scarves etc.



It has been a while since I myself, have discontinued using store-bought cards or wrapping papers. It started out as an alternative method after running out of pre-purchased cards and appropriate wrapping in my storage, but gradually turned into my tradition. The process of digitally designing custom cards and collaging photos to make one-and-only gift wrapping (to keep), not only made my heart full from the recollection of memories, but also because it gave me a chance to cherish precious relationships in life. I will never forget the surprised faces and genuine reactions that I have received when gifting them, which fills me with unexplainable joy that I hope you get to experience this Christmas too.


By S. Jeong


#reducepackagingwaste #unwantedgifts #christmaswrappingwaste #minimiseplasticwaste #sustainability