Recycling Christmas waste

As the 12 days of Christmas officially draw to a close this Saturday (5 January) and Christmas decorations come down, be sure to make the effort to be a bit more sustainable this year by recycling or reusing as much of your Christmas waste as possible.

From Christmas trees to food waste, the festive season is notoriously wasteful, but the majority of local authorities offer a huge array of services for dealing with it in a sustainable way. Hopefully, you will have kept the waste hierarchy in mind this festive season and remembered to reduce and reuse; here, Resource takes a look at what can be recycled.

christmas tree

Christmas Trees

If you had a real Christmas tree this year, rather than putting it out for landfill, why not replant it in your garden or take it to be recycled at your local collection site?

If your tree has roots, the most ecologically friendly way of removing it from your home is by replanting it. Just make sure that you let it rest in a sheltered spot outside for a few weeks to allow it to acclimatise to the cold before replanting it at least six metres away from any building (to remove the threat of structural damage from roots).

If you don’t have a garden or you have a rootless tree then you can recycle it either in your green bin (make sure to cut it up first), or take it to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) or a designated collection area. Most local authorities will have sent out information about Christmas tree collection/designated collection areas but if not, contact your local authority for details on where you can take it for recycling. It may also be worth contacting your local zoo, as many of these also take unwanted Christmas trees too.

For artificial trees, either pack it up for next year or put it up for sale/give it away on one of the many marketplace or exchange websites or your local charity.

Christmas tree lights

If your lights are still in working order, well done! These can be carefully rolled up in bubble wrap and stored for next year.

If not, then you can recycle your lights in waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) bins at HWRCs. Some councils may also run a kerbside WEEE collection service. Check with you local authority for more details.

Christmas decorations are largely not recyclable, but you can pack them up and reuse them for next year or sell/give them away.

christmas cards

Christmas cards

Though Christmas cards are lovely to receive, you probably won’t want to hold on to them all year.

According to the Greeting Card Association, people in the UK send around one billion Christmas cards every year. Recycling even a fraction of these can make a huge impact on the environment.

Most cards (and present tags) are made of cardboard so they can either be put out for recycling as usual (if your council runs a kerbside cardboard collection service) or taken to an HWRC.

Alternatively, many large supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, also have temporary recycling points for Christmas cards. If you’re an online shopper, some delivery drivers will also be accepting Christmas cards for recycling – check with your supermarket chain.

Wrapping paper

wrapping paperNon-shiny wrapping paper can be put out for recycling in kerbside recycling boxes (where paper recycling is in operation) or can be taken to HWRCs or many larger supermarkets. Unfortunately, shiny wrapping paper generally cannot be recycled, but if you shred it, it can make attractive packing fodder.

Food waste

Chances are you’ll have quite a few leftovers from Christmas, and if they can’t be made into a soup or frozen, you can either put them out for food waste collection (where applicable) or take your scraps to an HWRC for composting/to be turned into energy. Don’t forget that cooking oil can also be recycled at many HWRCs now too.

Unwanted presents

We’ve all got an auntie who just doesn’t quite get the right gift, and there’s no shame in returning, re-selling gifts on eBay, or ‘re-gifting’ (though perhaps it is preferable not to get caught). Charities are also a great option for the jumper you won’t wear or the CD player you just won’t use – passing unwanted presents on for use by someone else is certainly preferable to allowing them to lay about unused, gathering dust.

For more information on recycling collection points and what you can recycle, either contact your local authority or enter your postcode into