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Dear Recycling Bins: Christmas Recycling

Dear Recycling Bins: Christmas Recycling

Dear Recycling Bins: Our Weekly Recycling Advice Column

Welcome to our weekly advice column where we look at all things recycling and give you the answers you’re desperately seeking.

Dear Recycling Bins,

We’re into November, so I can probably mention that Christmas is not too far away! I love the time of year and I like to start my preparations early. My only problem is I have a Christmas tree and a box of decorations that have seen better days, and I need to make way for new ones. Can I recycle them, or do they just go in with my household waste?

Also, any tips you have on being a little bit kinder to the environment in general at Christmas would be gratefully received.

Thank you for your question!

We love Christmas too, but the extra waste it generates; not so much. It definitely sounds like you need to get rid of the ghosts of Christmas past (your old tree etc but we just wanted to sound clever!).

Here’s a guide to recycling Christmas items and how to be greener at Christmas in general. We hope it helps!

Christmas Items


Christmas cards

Most cards are made from paper and so they can be recycled at home, along with the envelopes. But if the cards have ribbons, glitter, bows, or other embellishments, they usually can’t be recycled, so remove them before you put the cards in your recycling bin.

If you have fancy musical cards, remove the batteries before you recycle them and take them to a battery recycling point.

Christmas trees

Real Christmas trees can be recycled and they are usually turned into wood chippings for use in parks. Some councils collect them or have designated drop-off points so check the website for details. You can also take them to a household recycling centre. Just remember to remove all decorations and any stands or pots before you take them for recycling.

Artificial trees are not the best choice, but they can often be recycled and the plastic can be reused. Check with your local council for details. If your artificial tree is still in reasonable condition and you just want to upgrade, why not donate your old one to charity, sell it online, or put it on Freecycle?

Christmas tree lights

Christmas tree lights usually have a plug or they use batteries, so they are classed as WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment). They have to be recycled properly (not sent to landfill), so take them to a household recycling centre or check if your council accepts small electronics in recycling collections.


Glass baubles aren’t recyclable. Any broken baubles should be wrapped carefully and put in with your general waste.

Plastic baubles are usually made from plastics that aren’t widely collected yet in the UK. Many of them are also decorated with glitter, which is tough to recycle, so they should be put in with your household waste.


Tinsel can’t be recycled. If your tinsel has seen better days, put it in your general waste bin.

Wrapping paper

Some councils don’t accept wrapping paper because excessive tape, glitter, and other embellishments can make it hard to recycle. Wrapping paper that is made from foil is definitely not accepted. Foil paper won’t usually scrunch up, so if your paper scrunches up and is not adorned with lots of tape and glitter, it can be recycled. Check with your local council to see what’s accepted.

Cardboard boxes

The rise of online shopping means that most of us will have an excess of cardboard boxes when we buy gifts. Most cardboard can be recycled, just remove excess packing tape and any plastic or polystyrene before you recycle it.


Most of us get toys for the kids or gadgets for ourselves so we buy more batteries that are going to eventually need recycling. Batteries are classed as hazardous waste because they contain chemicals so they have to be disposed of correctly. Some retailers have collection points, or they can be taken to a local authority recycling centre. If you want to avoid having endless batteries to recycle, invest in some rechargeable ones.

Dreaming of a green Christmas

If you want to start reducing your impact on the environment, times of the year like Christmas are a great place to start. There are lots of ways that you can have a more sustainable Christmas and show some seasonal kindness to the planet.

Buy a sustainable Christmas tree

Buy a real tree and if possible, one that’s certified by the FSC. Once the festive season is over, be sure it’s recycled so it can be turned into wood chippings or compost.

Buy LED Christmas lights

LED lights use around 75% less energy and last longer than other types of lights. You’ll save precious energy and money by making the switch.

Buy decorations that are built to last

Choose decorations that are made from recycled wood or glass. These are a far better choice than plastic decorations. They’ll last longer and they’re far more recyclable.

Reuse gift wrapping

Reuse gift bags, boxes, tissue paper, and ribbon from last year. If they’re in good condition, why not reuse them rather than binning them and buying new? It’s better for your pocket and for the planet.

Stick to a list when you go food shopping

Everything is done to excess at Christmas, especially the food and drink. Write a shopping list before you hit the supermarket and stick to it. Impulse buys are wasteful and they cost you a bomb at a time of year when you really don’t need any extra expense. When you hit the shops, be sure to take your reusable bags with you.

After the big day, make sure that you make good use of your leftovers and freeze what you know you won’t be able to eat in time.

Think about whether you really need to send Christmas cards

This is not about us getting all bah humbug, it’s about avoiding unnecessary waste. Can you send an e-card instead? If you do buy cards, buy cards made from recycled paper.

Eat, drink, and be sustainably merry this Christmas!

Yours sincerely,

Recycling bins.

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