Christmas recycling: the dos and don'ts of disposing of your rubbish after Christmas

These Christmas recycling tips will help you sort through all your winter holiday rubbish correctly

Christmas recycling
(Image credit: Shutterstock )

Do you know how to do Christmas recycling correctly? It can be confusing, we admit: can you recycle wrapping paper? And what about cards? Not to mention Christmas trees that are still often left on pavements for weeks on end. Fear nor, though: help is coming, with definitive answers to all your Christmas recycling questions. If our tips don't answer your question, though, it's always best to ring your council for help.

If you need decorating inspiration as well, browse our Christmas decoration ideas gallery. 

1. Christmas card and envelope recycling

The rule here is quite simple: if either the card or envelope has glitter or a metallic finish, it can't be recycled and should go in the general waste bin. If it's all plain paper, put it in the recycling bin. 

2. Can you recycle wrapping paper?

Again, metallic or foil finishes make wrapping paper non-recyclable. If you're unsure (for example, the wrapping paper looks glossy but not metallic), perform the scrunch test: if it stays in a ball when scrunched, it can be recycled. Shiny ribbons and bows will need to go into general waste. 

3. Christmas food recycling

Most of your Christmas food leftovers can go in the food waste bin; however, this typically excludes poultry carcasses or meat bones, but do check with your local council. Avoid accidentally putting bits of cling film into the food recycling bin. 

4. Christmas food packaging: what can you recycle?

A lot of food packaging can be recycled, but you will need to take care to separate any film from the trays (film is not recyclable). Succumbed to a takeaway? The clear plastic packaging can be recycled if it's washed properly before being put in the recycling. Black plastic cannot be recycled and should go in the general waste. Single-use cups and any packaging with a glossy finish will also have to go into general waste.

Glass bottles and jars are widely recycled – but do keep the lids on, as it makes sorting easier. 

5. Christmas tree recycling: the basics

Your Christmas tree can be recycled in one of two ways: by being chopped up and put into your garden waste bin, or by being taken whole to a recycling/composting point. You can look up your nearest tree recycling point online. You shouldn't leave your tree out on the kerb, as regular waste collection isn't set up for Christmas trees.

6. Christmas lights recycling

It's always best to check with your council how best to dispose of electronics and anything with a wire; it is worth doing so, because lots of types of Christmas lights actually can be recycled and don't need to go into landfill.

7. Can you put a broken glass bauble in recycling?

It happens: some decorations do get broken while decorating or taking down the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, glass baubles aren't recyclable, and you should never put a broken one in your recycling bin. Wrap the broken bits in a bag or bubble wrap and put in the general waste bin.