Readers of The Catholic Universe are being urged to swap or reuse their Christmas jumpers from last year, as environmentalists warn of the damage they do to the planet.
Almost all of the millions of Christmas jumpers expected to be sold to UK customers this year are made with plastic, according to research by environmental charity Hubbub.
It found that as many as 95 per cent of the sweaters are made using plastic and it is estimated UK shoppers will buy 12 million jumpers this festive season, despite already having 65 million stashed away from previous years.
Ellen Teague, of the Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, warned that the environment is “groaning under the strain” of the clothing item, which has been cited as “one of the worst examples of fast fashion”.
“The Christmas jumper is an example of our wasteful, throw-away society, when we learn that most are made of plastic and one in three under-35s buy a new one every year. Our environment is groaning under this strain,” Mrs Teague told The Catholic Universe.
“The Christmas jumper is one of the worst examples of fast fashion and is creating a major threat to the planet as they are made using plastic fibres such as acrylic, nylon and polyester,” she continued.
“The World Health Organisation’s 2019 report ‘Microplastics in Drinking Water’ highlighted the problem of microplastic pollution, including the dangers to human health and what can be done to stop these particles from entering our water supplies. Clearly, avoiding the washing of plastic jumpers, Christmas or otherwise, is important.”
Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, pointed out that Christmas jumpers are not an essential part to celebrating the birth of Jesus and suggested that as they pose a threat to the environment, they should have no place in the celebrations.
“These jumpers are a sad abuse of Christmas shopping. We can all enjoy Christ’s birthday more by buying and sharing only what is healthy and wholesome and not plastic,” he told The Catholic Universe.
However, Mrs Teague suggested that those who do want to partake in the Christmas jumper craze should look at environmentally friendly ways to do so, such as recycling their old ones, by either reusing last year’s or swapping it with someone.
“I find it easy not to buy into the consumerism at Christmas, which is tacky and distracting from the real meaning of Christmas. I tend to wear red with a sprig of holly,” she said. “But for those wanting a Christmas jumper, re-wear last year’s one or swap with a friend. Be aware that your Christmas jumper habit really isn’t good for Planet Earth.
“Pope Francis said on World Environment Day 2013, ‘I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and care for creation, to pay attention to every person, to combat the culture of waste and of throwing out so as to foster a culture of solidarity and encounter’,” she added, citing the Holy Father’s message.
Parishioners at Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, set a good example by organising a Christmas jumper ‘swap-shop’ last week. Their concerns “weren’t just about the plastic,” the parish said. “Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. We organised a ‘swap-shop’ to help families pass on Christmas jumpers that are too small and replace them with pre-loved jumpers rather than buying new. Another fun alternative to buying new is to temporarily decorate a regular jumper with old Christmas decorations.”
Hubbub’s poll suggests that just 29 per cent of shoppers realise that most Christmas jumpers contain plastic. The charity checked 108 jumpers available this year from 11 high street and online retailers, finding that 95 per cent are made wholly or partly of plastic materials.
The most common plastic fibre used is acrylic.
Picture: People looking at Christmas jumpers. (Victoria Jones/PA).