Christmas recycling facts for this year

Once Christmas Day has passed we all know the feeling of dread when the big clear up operation begins. Mountains of wrapping paper, packaging, gift bags, ribbon and glitter to contend with. Most of the time though, we’re left asking what can and can’t be put in the recycling bin? 

In this article we're going to look at some of the major Christmas recycling facts. We'll separate some of the truths from the myths to ensure we can all act more sustainably this festive season.

As is the case with most recycling processes in the UK, it’s not always as simple as it might seem. Sadly, Christmas recycling is no different.

Let’s start by looking at those items that cannot be put on the Christmas recycling pile this year. In most of the cases, the items listed below will need to go into UK households waste bin. 

Cannot be recycled 

1 Wrapping paper. 

You might think wrapping paper is a certainty for recycling. However, it’s often coated with plastic, foil or other non recyclable materials which cannot be recycled.

If in doubt, the easiest way to check is to scrunch test the paper up. Generally, If it stays scrunched up then it should be good to recycle. You could also check the original packaging for recycling guidance if it’s still available. 

2 Broken baubles 

Most modern baubles are made from plastic given it's cheaper to manufacture than glass. It's also likely to be the type of plastic that is not widely recycled.

Although some glass baubles are still out there, they're now quite uncommon. Either way plastic or glass baubles will need to go in with household waste. If they're not broken, you could take them down to the local charity shop to ensure they find a new home.  

3 Tinsel 

Tinsel is plastic based which means it cannot be recycled. It will therefore need to be placed in the general household waste.

One possible solution is to repurpose your tinsel into another decoration. You could also pop it into the family craft box for future use. You never know when something might need a bit of tinsel to spruce it up.  

4 Glittery Christmas card 

Sadly, every year we send around a billion Christmas cards. Although card is readily recyclable, this is not always the case with decorative cards. Anything containing glitter cannot be recycled and should be placed in the general household waste. Do check all cards and gift tags before discarding.

5 Plastic packaging 

Most plastic packaging from our gifts cannot be recycled at kerbside. It’s worth noting that co-op and other supermarkets now offer a soft plastic recycling service though. This means some of the softer plastic packaging could be possibly recycled.

Can be recycled

1 Christmas lights 

Broken or unwanted lights should be classed as an electrical item and not put in the bin. This is because anything that has a plug or uses batteries is classified as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Instead take them to your local recycling centre as you would any other household appliance. 

2 Wreaths 

If a wreath is made from natural foliage then it can composted at home or placed in the garden waste bin. Be sure to remove any non recyclable materials like glue or plastic first. Anything covered in excess glitter should also be discarded with the household waste. 

3 Trees

Real Christmas trees can be recycled and are often turned into wood chips for local community projects. Most local services will collect old trees at the kerbside in the new year. Do keep an eye out for your local collection date. If a collection isn't available then your tree can be taken to your local recycling centre.

4 Cardboard boxes

in the UK alone, 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is thrown away each Christmas. That's enough to cover Big Ben more than 260,000 times over. Recycling this amount of card effectively is an absolute must. Not only does flattening cardboard boxes, removing sticky tape & polystyrene save space, it also makes the entire recycling process far more efficient.

5 Batteries

Powering all those new toys and gadgets over Christmas consumes more batteries than normal. In most cases batteries are discarded incorrectly with general household waste. Don't forget to separate them out for drop off at a local battery collection point. These should be easy to find as anywhere selling more than 32kg of batteries each year must offer a collection point.


By understanding these simple Christmas recycling tips, we can all do our bit for the environment and reduce waste in landfill. It also means we can do more in advance to inform our Christmas period buying decisions. Prevention is certainly better than a cure.

Less in Christmas household waste and less for Christmas recycling pile. A true win win.

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