What can you recycle at Christmas?

There are certain inevitabilities that come with Christmas: you will eat far more than your body can hold, you’ll lose one of the 20 pairs of socks you got from your mum immediately after you open them, your uncle will drink just a little too much sherry, Brexit banter.

One that often gets overlooked is the mountain of waste in the form of used packaging, unwanted decorations and Christmas cards from distant relatives that get thrown out on Boxing Day.What can you recycle at Christmas?

Some of the figures associated with this Christmas waste do not make for merry reading – in 2017, the UK sent 277,000 miles of wrapping paper to landfill, while two million turkeys and 17 million brussel sprouts were thrown out last year.

Wading through this mound of waste can be daunting, but help is at hand. Many local authorities and waste management companies now provide information and advice on their websites to help you to make the right decisions about what to do with your festive waste, with information on everything from reuse to recycling.

Below you can find Resource’s summary of simple tips for easy festive recycling.

Wrapping paper

Check on your council’s website to see if it accepts wrapping paper – if so, follow the scrunch test! If it stays scrunched up it can be recycled – if not, put it in the general waste bin.

Remove sellotape before recycling.

Consider saving your wrapping paper so that you can reuse it next year.


Chances are, despite your best efforts, you still had to do a digital trolley dash to finish off your Christmas shopping. We use around 300,000 tonnes of card packaging every Christmas (the equivalent of two million reindeer) – make sure all your boxes make it into the recycling.

Christmas cards

Easily recyclable unless they have glitter on.

Plastic packaging

Getting rid of all the cases, bottles and boxes that house the inordinate amount of gadgets we receive each year can can be tricky. Recycling symbols on packaging show what can usually be recycled and you’ll have to check your council’s website if you’re unsure about what types of plastic they collect. All clear and coloured plastic bottles from the home can usually be recycled, including bleach products.

Food waste

After making the most of your inevitable leftovers with some creative cooking (who’s for brandy butter sandwiches?) anything that can’t be eaten should go straight into the food waste bin and stay well clear of the residual waste bin.

Christmas trees

Real trees can be recycled into wood chippings. Many local authorities advertise designated collection days in early January. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, but if you’re not re-using it, why not take it to a local charity shop?


Luckily, most of our Christmas decorations can be reused year-on-year. For those that are completely worn out, some can be recycled:

Wreaths can go into your garden waste as long as they don’t have glitter or glue on them.

Fairy lights are classed as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and should go to your local household waste recycling centre, not into the general bin.

Tired tinsel and broken baubles (glass or plastic) cannot currently be recycled in the UK and should go into the general waste bin.