Are you planning an office party? Or a Christmas get-together at home with friends and family? Maybe you’re arranging a fun party for your children and their friends …
Here’s the question: are you ready to go plastic free?
Painted macaroni strung across the room, paperchains secured with metal clips or staples, and pinecones dabbed with white paint. They’re as much fun now as they always were.
Now let’s look at the Christmas tree – that mainstay of seasonal decoration. And then we’ll find something to replace those shiny plastic baubles.
The tradition of the Christmas tree began in Germany and was made popular in the UK by Queen Victoria, no doubt with influence from her German husband, Prince Albert.
In the late 19th century, feather trees came into fashion in Germany in response to the high rate of deforestation. These feather trees consisted of green-dyed goose feathers on wire, fixed to a central wooden dowel.
In the 1980s, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) trees became popular. PVC takes hundreds of years to degrade.
So, for your plastic-free Christmas party, it’s got to be a real tree. But a Christmas tree doesn’t have to be thrown away after the festivities are over. Not if you buy one with roots.
Salt dough trinkets are great fun, and the best bit about them is that they can be totally unique.
Here’s how to make salt dough decorations:
You’ll need twice as much plain flour as salt. For example, 300g of flour and 150g of salt. Mix them together and add water. You’ll need the same amount of water in millilitres as salt in grams. So, in this instance, 150ml.
Roll out your salt dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes with cookie cutters – or freehand if you’re feeling creative! Put your shapes onto a lined baking tray and bake for approximately three hours in an oven preheated to a very low 100°C.
When the decorations are cool, they’re ready to be painted.
At the plastic-free Christmas party, we have to think carefully about how we wrap our gifts. For a start, there must be no Sellotape, which is made from polypropylene. Not only is this plastic non-recyclable, but the paper it’s stuck to is also no good for recycling.
An alternative to taping your gift wrapping is to tie it. Ribbons make an attractive trim for Christmas presents, and they can be used over and over again.
Ribbons are made out of a variety of materials. They can be natural materials, like cotton (fibre from plants in the genus Gossypium), silk (protein fibre from the larvae of the mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori), and jute (fibre from plants in the genus Corchorus) – or they might be petroleum-based synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, or polypropylene.
Petroleum-based plastics are non-biodegradable, so when you’re wrapping a gift or making decorations for your plastic-free party, go for the natural materials.
A lot of commercial wrapping paper is coated in biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BoPET), a polyester film made from stretched polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
BoPET is used in dozens of industry applications, including space exploration (Apollo’s lunar module is covered in BoPET), electrical insulation, sails for hang gliders, fire shelters, and food packaging. BoPET is also commonly used as a covering for paper – for example, book covers, maps, playing cards, etc. And, of course, wrapping paper.
There’s a simple way to determine whether a wrapping paper is just paper, or whether it’s coated in plastic; this is the “scrunch test”. Scrunch up a piece of the wrapping paper, squeeze it in your hand, and then release. If the paper unfurls at all, it’s a sign of a plastic coating. If the paper remains screwed up, then you can be pretty confident that it’s purely paper and therefore recyclable.
Party food can be quite tricky when you’re going plastic free, as so much is wrapped in plastic packaging. You could make your own cakes and mince pies, or you could buy them loose from your local baker. The same goes for sausage rolls, savoury pies, and flans.
When it comes to drinks, stick to glass bottles or cans for alcoholic drinks, and for cold water, refill cups and glasses from your water dispenser.
Paper plates are fine until it’s time to clear up. That’s when you need a plastic binbag to put them in! If you haven’t got enough crockery, cutlery, and glasses to go round, why not ask everyone to bring one of each item.