Green Christmas: What can I recycle at Christmas and festive recycling tips

From reams of wrapping paper to tonnes of food waste, we produce a lot of rubbish at Christmas that should be disposed of responsibly.

According to the City of Edinburgh Council, last Christmas the people of Edinburgh recycled 6,722 tonnes of waste, the equivalent of 57,000 Santas.

The Big Issue found that, in the UK as a whole, we waste 270,000 tonnes of food waste, made up of two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings, and over 74 million mince pies.

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Christmas is a certainly a time for indulging with friends and family, but there are some ways that you can adapt celebrations to produce less waste and be kinder to the planet.

To start with, understanding what you can and cannot recycle means that any waste you do produce gets disposed of properly.

Here’s a guide to what you can and can’t recycle at Christmas, as well as some tips on recycling and reducing waste during the holiday season.

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What can I recycle at Christmas?

Find out the do's and dont's of recycling at Christmas. Photo: icenando / Getty Images / Canva Pro. tookapic / pixabay / Canva Pro. tapanakorn / Canva Pro.

As you celebrate Christmas, keeping what you can and can’t recycle separate makes it easier to stay on top of your waste.

Try having separate bins or keeping a big cardboard box for everything you can recycle, so you can easily dispose of it later.

Here’s some common Christmas materials that you can recycle:

- Christmas cards and envelopes are usually made of paper and can be recycled just like other paper-based items, unless they are covered in glitter or foil. Most cards will say on the back whether they can be recycled or not.

Christmas cards can often be recycled, but watch out for foil or glitter. Photo: Jonathan Berba / Pexels / Canva Pro.

- Wrapping paper is similar to cards in that it can usually be recycled, so long as it doesn’t contain plastic or foil. Be sure to separate out any bows or ribbons, as these cannot be recycled.

- Christmas trees can also be recycled. In Edinburgh, the council will share specific days when they will collect trees for recycling in the coming weeks.

- Drink cans and glass bottles can also be recycled. Remember that glass should go in a separate box for your rubbish collectors to pick up.

- Mince pie foil tins can be recycled alongside tin cans in your standard recycling.

- Food waste can be recycled to create energy. According to the City of Edinburgh Council, one kitchen caddy of food waste is enough to generate energy to power your TV for five hours.

- Electrical items can be recycled via household waste recycling centres, so if you have any old Christmas lights or other electrics, don’t throw them away via general waste.

What can I not recycle at Christmas?

There are also some surprising items and materials that cannot be recycled.

Even if you can’t put them in your recycling tin, see if there are ways you can re-use them elsewhere.

For example, glittery or foil wrapping paper could be saved for future gifts or used as decorations to last years.

Here are some items to watch out for this Christmas:

- Sellotape cannot be recycled, so make sure to rip it off your wrapping paper before recycling.

- Tinsel and baubles are not recyclable. If you’re getting rid of unwanted Christmas decorations, consider donating them if they’re still in good condition.

Festive recycling tips at Christmas

On top of knowing what you can and cannot recycle, here are some tips for reducing and managing waste during the festive period.

- If you’re unsure whether wrapping paper can be recycled or not, try the scrunch test: scrunch the wrapping paper into a ball in your fist. If it stays in a ball when you let go, it’s good to be recycled.

- Flatten and fold cardboard boxes so that they fit more easily in your big recycling bin.

- Rinse your plastics, cans, and glass bottles before putting them in the bin.

- Avoid throwing away food waste and see what you can re-use in future meals. For example, turkey scraps can make excellent soups or turkey curries on Boxing Day.


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