Ultimate guide to recycling at Christmas 

Christmas this year is going to be a little different for us all. 2020 has brought with it so much change as well as a concerted effort to keep everyone safe this holiday season.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the importance of finding the right bins for the impending piles of waste that comes with all that festive cheer.

Our Ultimate guide to recycling at Christmas is back and here to help.

With social restrictions requiring more of us to stay at home this year, households are likely to have more to recycle. But what to do with it all...




Christmas cards

Most cards and envelopes are paper based and can be recycled either in your home collection or you can take them to your local recycling centre.

However extra decorations on the cards such as bows and ribbons cannot be recycled. Neither can glitter which might be glued on to the cards. In those cases you will need to tear off that part off and recycle the remainder of the card.



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Wrapping paper

Not all local authorities collect wrapping paper because the amount of sticky tape involved can cause problems for some recycling centres. Check with your council if they collect it before putting it in with your household recycling collection.

The shiny metallic and glitter varieties of wrapping paper cannot be accepted for recycling. If you are unsure then do the “scrunch test” – if you can scrunch the paper in your hand and it stays in a ball, it can go in the recycling (although please flatten it out again first). If the paper springs out as soon as you release it, then unfortunately it cannot be recycled.





Whether giving or receiving, you can count on there being masses of cardboard to recycle at Christmas.

Councils sometimes collect food packaging and corrugated cardboard separately, so best to check with them before leaving them out for your household collection.

The majority of cardboard is recycled universally, but as with cards and wrapping paper any cardboard with glitter on cannot be recycled. Your cardboard recycling should also be free of food, tape, polystyrene, dirt and paint. It is also best practice to flatten any boxes and try to keep them dry prior to collection. Items such as toilet rolls and egg boxes can also be put on your compost heap at home.




Other food packaging and food waste

Away from cardboard items such as cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles are widely recycled. It is a good idea to make sure they are as clean as possible before putting them into your recycling.

Plastic bottles should ideally be crushed, cans should be rinsed out and lids can be left on glass bottles, but need to be washed out as otherwise sticky substances can interfere with recycling machinery.

Plan ahead to avoid food waste or, if your local authority accepts food waste, take advantage of this opportunity or consider investing in a home composting solution.

If you are replacing crockery for your festive celebrations, please don’t add this to glass recycling for home collections but rather take this general waste to a recycling centre. This includes oven-safe ceramic and glass cookware.



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Christmas trees

Real Christmas trees can be recycled and turned into chippings for your garden or public parks. Your council may arrange a special pick up point, so check with them for more information. The trees must be bare in order to be shredded – no decorations and no pots or stands.

The majority of artificial trees can’t be recycled, but it might be worth sending it to a charity shop if it’s in a good condition.

Artificial decorations such as wreaths cannot be recycled either and should be put into your general waste. However natural wreaths could be composted as long as they don’t include ribbons or glitter.




Christmas decorations

It is not possible to recycle glass baubles, so if no longer wanted they should be wrapped in newspaper and put into general waste. Plastic baubles are not widely recycled and should also go into your general waste. The same goes for tinsel.



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Christmas tree lights

Electric Christmas fairy lights can usually be recycled at your local recycling centre. Some councils also collect small electrical items, while other places such as supermarkets might have collections which will accept lights for recycling.





With all those extra toys and gadgets to play around with it’s likely you are going to get through a few batteries during the Christmas period.

All types of batteries can be recycled including button batteries for watches, lithium-ion batteries for mobile phones, cameras and laptops and even car batteries.

But putting them in general waste, rather than disposing of them properly, is one of the main causes of fires at recycling centres – if the battery is damaged the resulting spark can ignite with the lithium. Alternatively if the battery is exposed to high temperatures it could potentially cause an explosion.

As a result, Lithium-ion batteries must be disposed of at your local recycling centre.

Some councils collect other types of batteries separately as part of their waste service, but in most areas you will need to take them to your local recycling centre, or to a collection point at a supermarket or DIY store – since 2010 shops which sell more than 32kg of batteries per year MUST provide battery recycling facilities in store.