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What Christmas Waste Can Be Recycled?

Christmas is just around the corner again, which means it’s time to rejoice with family and friends – especially after the subdued break we had last year. But with COP26 still fresh in our minds – and let’s face it, the environment is high on a lot of people’s agendas right now anyway – it’s important to know ahead of the festivities how you can minimise waste and lower your impact on the planet while still enjoying yourself. 

This month at SCS Waste, we’re going to be talking about Christmas waste and providing you with some handy info on what can and can’t be recycled so that we can all do our bit.


Christmas waste in outside bin

Christmas Waste Statistics

To help put the impact that our Christmas habits have on the planet into some perspective, here are some startling statistics for Christmas waste. In the UK, each year we:

  • throw out over 9,000 tonnes of Christmas trees
  • use approximately 227,000 miles of Christmas wrapping paper
  • use approximately 300,000 tonnes of cardboard for wrapping and sending gifts
  • waste approximately 2 million Christmas turkeys
  • waste approximately 5 million Christmas puds
  • waste approximately 74 million mince pies

As you can see, there are many areas in which we produce a lot of waste at this time of year, so let’s break it down a little to make things manageable. The following sections are designed to help you find ways of identifying what can be recycled to minimise waste.

Which Christmas cards can’t be recycled?

Since they’re usually made from simple, thin card, Christmas cards are easy to recycle after you take them down. Place them in your paper and card home recycling bin to ensure they avoid the landfill sites. Cards you can’t recycle include those with foil, glitter or any plastic attachments. But fear not, you could get creative and recycle these at home – get the kids to cut them up and use them for decorations next year.

The same applies to envelopes. Unlike Christmas cards, most envelopes are completely plain and therefore can be recycled. However, any embellishments may render the envelope non-recyclable. 

can you recycle christmas cards

Which Christmas wrapping paper can’t be recycled?

Wrapping paper is a tricky one to decipher, as you may not have purchased the paper yourself to know if it’s safe to put it in the ordinary recycling bin. The best thing we can all do is to avoid any foil-based wrapping paper and forgo the bows and ribbons that are usually made of plastics or synthetics.

To be fully sure of whether your wrapping paper can be recycled once the presents are unwrapped, just do the scrunch test, where if it can be crumpled into a ball and stays crumpled, then it’s ok to recycle.

what can be recycled at christmas

Which Christmas foods can’t be recycled?

When it comes to food, if your local council provides a food waste recycling service then you’re in a great position to recycle anything you waste. However, make sure you’ve removed any stray bits of tinfoil from Christmas chocolates and your festive dinner scrapings.

If you happen to be hosting a party, try and buy recyclable plates, cups and cutlery if that’s the route you take. 

Does your local council not offer food waste bins? Then there are a few things you can do to help still:

  • Firstly, try and only buy what you intend to use, avoiding waste in the first place and saving you some money
  • If you have food unopened after Christmas that you won’t use, see if it can be donated to a charity or simply shared amongst neighbours
  • If you’re left with ingredients you’ve opened but don’t finish, try and find combinations for future dishes to save as much as you can
  • If, after all of the above, you still need to throw it out, consider investing in a composter, where you can use certain food scraps to feed your garden in the future

Roast Turkey Dinner

Can you recycle your Christmas tree?

Real Christmas trees can be recycled. Simply chop your Christmas tree up into small pieces and place it in your garden waste bin. If you don’t have the tools to chop up your Christmas tree, don’t worry — your local council will have information on how to recycle it. Some even offer a collection service.

Fake Christmas trees can’t be recycled, but you can store them away and use them year after year. 

Remember to remove all decorations before recycling your tree. Natural decorations such as wreaths and mistletoe can be recycled along with the tree. Plastic decorations can’t, so you should either store them away or dispose of them in your household waste bin.

can you recycle christmas trees

Can you recycle Christmas decorations?

Glass baubles and plastic baubles are not recyclable. Tinsel also cannot be recycled, as it is made of non-recyclable plastic. 

Generally, natural decorations are recyclable. This includes wreaths, ivy, fir cones, mistletoe and holly. These can be composted or recycled at a local recycling centre as long as they are not covered in excess glitter, glue, bows or ribbons. Make sure your Christmas decorations are ‘real’ before recycling — plastic wreaths and similar plastic items cannot be recycled.

can you recycle christmas decorations

Skip Hire Over Christmas

Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for how to combat waste this Christmas, keeping the festivities front and centre while taking a proactive approach to protecting the environment. If you’re looking to get rid of large amounts of waste, whether from multiple large Christmas parties, making space for new presents or to have a clear out, look no further than SCS Waste.

Our skip hire service is environmentally friendly, with our team taking your waste to be separated into recyclable materials. These are then sent to our dedicated recycling facility, ensuring we recycle as much of your waste as possible and avoid using landfills.

You can book skips in a range of sizes, from 2 yards to 12 yards, wherever you are in Arundel, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and the surrounding areas – just give our team a call today and make sure you’ve got your skip ready for the festive period this year. 

Note: Our Christmas opening times will be available closer to the Christmas break.


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