How eco-friendly are Christmas crackers?

With the recent news that, from 2020, John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners will stop selling Christmas crackers containing plastic toys, the pressure is on for other UK retailers to follow suit and reduce their environmental impact.

Figures suggest an extra 30% of waste is generated over the festive period1 and, with Christmas 2019 still to contend with, leading savings site VoucherCodes.co.uk has put a number of crackers from across the high street to the test to see how eco-friendly they are.

Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth lead plastic campaigner, said: “Christmas crackers come with excess packaging that can’t always be recycled, as well as a lot of single-use tat, so this is one festive product that you should think twice about.

“There are a number of things you might want to look into when buying your crackers, including whether toys come in plastic wrappers, whether they contain microplastic glitter and if they have novelty toys that will end up in landfill.”

Assessing options from a range of retailers, the research found the majority include more harmful elements than good. While there was no stand-out winner, Tesco’s Gold Cube Christmas Crackers included no notable ‘good’ points and are instead filled with plastic in both the packaging and the contents.

Weighing up the analysis, Kirby said: “John Lewis & Partners, Debenhams, Liberty, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose & Partners crackers contain longer-lasting toys, but they’re let down by the plastic packets they come in. We know Waitrose is working towards plastic-free crackers for 2020 so we look forward to seeing that next year.

“And, while Sainsbury’s limits waste by removing the plastic window on its Home Luxury Cracker box, the crackers themselves are covered in glitter, which is a microplastic that can be harmful to the environment.”

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk said: “With most of these crackers you get what you pay for. Tesco has the lowest cost per cracker at 33p – but Julian’s verdict is that they’re not sustainable due to unclear recycling instructions and single-use toys.

“On the other hand, Waitrose includes built-to-last toys and the packaging is widely recyclable, but at £5 per cracker they’re one of the priciest options.

“My recommendation, if you want to avoid the plastic waste crackers produce, is to make your own. There are lots of great kits available to buy, you just need to pick what you put into the cracker – which means you can decide how much you spend.

“It also means you can put something inside you know people will use (or eat, I’m a fan of chocolate in crackers!).”