Can I recycle Christmas cards? How to dispose of decorations and wrapping paper - and what to put in the bin

It is estimated that around 30,000 tonnes of Christmas cards are sent every year in the UK

It's a new year and the ideal time to declutter your home, including throwing all your Christmas cards out and taking down decorations.

However, if you’re planning on living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle this year, you may be wondering how to kickstart your resolution?

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Well, if you’ve got lots of Christmas cards to get rid of, here is how you can recycle them and what to look out for before filling your blue bin.

Christmas cards may not be recyclable - depending on their decoration (Picture: Shutterstock)

Can I recycle my Christmas cards?

Yes, and no. (sorry, that doesn’t help)

Plain Christmas cards, most likely cheaper ones, with no fancy glitter decorations or 3D shifting images can widely be recycled in the UK.

The more expensive, extravagant cards, like the ones that are personalised for certain friends or relatives, which come adorned with ribbons, glitter or 3D decorations are less likely to be recyclable.

The only element of these Christmas cards that can be recycled is the paper, since ribbons, foil, glitter and plastics are not eco-friendly products.

Where do I dispose of sparkly cards or ones with foil decorations?

Glitter is arguably the worst Christmas card material for the environment.

Made up of flat multi-layered sheets combining plastic, colouring and reflective material such as aluminium, titanium dioxide and other metal compounds, it is incredibly bad for marine life and not considered biodegradable.

Glittery cards must therefore be put into your standard household waste bin.

Stores such as M&S decided to go glitter-free in 2019 in a bid to become increasingly environmentally conscious, so you may not have come across as many of these types of cards recently.

Foil is a sheet of aluminum metal and cannot be recycled, therefore any cards which are backed onto foil must be thrown in the rubbish bin.

Plastics can be recycled, but not all of them, so the unknown compounds of plastics in your card are better disposed of in general waste.

What about other throw-away Christmas decorations?

Much of the throw away wrapping paper, boxes and cards are incredibly difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner.

While cardboard boxes can go straight in the recycling bin, any with plastic fronts (such as display boxes for kids’ toys or your M&S gateaux) must have the plastic removed beforehand.

Furthermore, if you thought wrapping paper could go into the blue bin, think again. Despite being named ‘paper’ it is actually backed onto plastic sheets and may also contain glitter components.

Tinsel, foil decorations and ribbon cannot be recycled either due to their make up of plastic, wool or metals.

Next Christmas, you may wish to consider environmentally friendly decorations such as paper chains you can make with the kids. Or make a wreath out of real foraged plants as opposed to plastic replicas.

Where do our Christmas cards end up?

With the UK averaging over 1 billion Christmas cards and each weighing an average of 30g, there is approximately 30,000 tonnes of Christmas card waste every single year.

Now imagine even half of those contain a glitter or foil component - that's 15,000 tonnes of waste added to landfill come January.

So where does it go? Recycled plastics and metals are mostly sent abroad to be recycled.

They are then used in plastic bottles, tins and in various other products.

Paper tends to stay within the UK, and is broken down at recycling centres and washed to remove ink, before being reformed into new sheets of paper, cardboard and used to produce boxes, newspapers and copy paper.