Recycling at Christmas

Christmas can be a busy time of the year and the most wasteful, as many of us are guilty of unnecessary excess buying. Householders often end up with lots of unused items that they don't know what do with. Where possible, do not allow waste and unwanted items to end up in landfill. Think about what you really need before making purchases to reduce your consumption, and reuse items and recycle when necessary.

Recycle real Christmas trees

Many local authorities provide collections for real Christmas trees, even if garden waste isn’t usually part of your household kerbside collections. Check your local authority’s website for information on drop off points or recycling centres and don’t forget to remove all decorations and stands.

Recycling and reuse of Christmas cards, wrapping paper and advent calendars

Most Christmas cards and envelopes are made from paper, which means they can be recycled at home via household collections. You can also take them to a local recycling point. Use our locator tool to find your nearest one. Supermarkets, such as Sainsburys, may collect them for recycling and will make a charitable donation based on the volume collected.  Avoid buying Christmas cards with ribbons and glitter, as these will have to be removed before they are recycled. Consider sending e-cards to reduce costs and the demand for natural resources.

Wrapping paper can be hard to recycle if lots of sticky tape, ribbons and bows are attached to it or if it’s covered in glitter or made from foil. Many local authorities do not accept wrapping paper, so it is important to check if it can be collected for recycling before placing it in your recycling bin. If it is accepted, only non-foil paper will be collected. Try the scrunch test to find out if your wrapping paper can be recycled. If the paper doesn’t spring back after being scrunched it isn’t made from foil and is recyclable.

Advent calendars are often made from a mix of cardboard and plastic and are widely recycled, as the different materials can be separated. Consider purchasing a reusable advent calendar to reduce waste at Christmas. These can be tailored to suit the recipient and can be used year after year.

Reuse old Christmas cards and wrapping paper by making items for next Christmas, such as, gift tags, paper wreaths, decorations, bookmarks etc.

Recycling Christmas decorations

Decorations such as tinsel and baubles cannot be recycled. Plastic baubles are often made from materials that are not widely recycled in the UK. The glitter and bow attachments can also impact the recycling process, which means they will have to be disposed of in general waste. If unwanted decorations aren’t damaged and can be reused, you can donate them to your local charity shop or give them away via online platforms such as Freecycle or Facebook Marketplace.

Door wreaths and table centre pieces that are made from natural materials can either be composted at home or added to your household green waste bin. Artificial additions should be removed and kept to one side to be reused on future festive creations.