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Ethical Christmas | Christmas Recycling Guide

Ethical Christmas | Christmas Recycling Guide

After all the festivities are over and done with, we're often left with an awful lot of rubbish. That doesn't mean we can't enjoy the celebrations, but if you want to do your little bit for the planet then it's important to make sure all the rubbish ends up in the right place. Over the Christmas period, we generate over 30% extra waste than throughout the rest of the year. And whilst many of us try to do our best and recycle, there's often a lot of confusion around what can and can't be recycled. This guide will cover common festive waste and what to do with it, assuring we are all having a very green Christmas!


Christmas Cards

Most cards are paper based and can be recycled, along with their envelopes, either in your home recycling collection, at local recycling points such as household waste recycling centres. Any extras such as ribbons, foil, glitter or plastic parts cannot be recycled and need to be removed by tearing off that part of the card.

Wrapping Paper

Due to the make-up of wrapping paper and the amount of tape and embellishments used which can cause problems at recycling plants, some local authorities do not accept wrapping paper for recycling, for more information and to check your local authority click here.  If your local authority does collect wrapping paper for recycling, only non-foil paper will be accepted. To check, scrunch up the paper and if it doesn't spring back it is non-foil and can be recycled. Added items such as ribbon, bows or ornaments usually cannot be recycled and should be removed.

kids playing with christmas rosettes Cardboard

If you've been shopping online this year then you are likely to have a lot of cardboard boxes hanging around. Cardboard is widely recycled by local authorities, whether it is cardboard boxes, mailing envelopes or corrugated card. Remember to remove any plastic or polystyrene from inside the boxes as well as any tape before recycling .


We're often gifted new toys and gadgets for Christmas, meaning more batteries get used and thrown away. Some local authorities collect batteries bagged separately with household recycling but there are also many battery recycling points in shops around town. Shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year are required to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store. This means there are now lots more places where you can take your old batteries for recycling. For more information, click here.  

Photo by Oana Craciun on Unsplash

Christmas Trees

Did you know that real Christmas trees can be recycled and turned into chippings for parks?! Some local authorities have special collections or organise drop-off points. Otherwise they can be taken to your household waste recycling centre. Just remember to remove all decorations and tinsel beforehand! 

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights can be recycled at household waste recycling centres. Some local authorities collect small electricals as part of their recycling collections. Remember, any item with a plug or that uses batteries is classed as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.) These items must not be sent to landfill but disposed of at designated sites such as household waste recycling centres.

Hiro and Wolf in tinsel

Baubles & Tinsel

A frequent mistake people make is trying to recycle broken glass baubles. Unfortunately, glass baubles are not recyclable and should be disposed of by wrapping and putting in with general waste. Plastic baubles are usually made from types of plastic not widely collected yet in the UK. They are also likely to be covered with glitter which is not recyclable and so they should also go in the general waste too. Tinsel is made from plastic too and therefore cannot be recycled. If it can be reused, consider donating it to a charity shop before putting it into general waste. 


Natural materials on wreaths, such as ivy, fir cones, mistletoe and holly, can be composted as long as they are not covered with excessive glitter. Simply remove the greenery from the base and add to your garden/green waste collection, or drop at your local household waste recycling centre. Artificial decorations such as ribbons and plastic flowers will need to be removed as these cannot be recycled.

Tin Foil 

It is estimated that as much as 4,500 tonnes of aluminium foil is used every festive season. Whether it’s mince pie cases, cooking trays or turkey wrappings, piles of foil trays are used across the UK. All of these can be recycled, just be sure to rinse or wipe off any crumbs or food residue.

Unwanted Decorations & Gifts

If you have any decorations that are in good condition but you simply don't want them anymore, consider donating them to a charity shop for re-sale to help reduce wastage. Similarly, unwanted gifts can always be donated to charity shops or check your local food banks, homeless shelters and women's refuge centres as many of these places are in need of need of new clothing, socks, underwear, toiletries and toys all year round. 

re-usable fabric wrap

We highly recommend buying recycled and recyclable goods where possible for the festive season, such as gift wrap and cards, or investing in some beautiful reusable gift wrap. We also think it is important to try and cut down on unnecessary packaging as far as possible so we recommend buying fruit and veg loose and opting for plastic-free packaging when ordering online where possible. Overall, we can all do our bit to help protect our incredible planet whilst still being able to enjoy ourselves. Do you recycle all your Christmas waste? Let us know. 


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