How To Recycle Christmas Cards, Christmas Trees and Wrapping Paper

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Getty ImagesSKatzenberger

When you’re looking up at the frosty sky tonight, be aware that UK households will be throwing away more than 277,000 miles of Christmas wrapping paper – that’s enough to stretch to the moon.

Waste collection company, Biffa, also estimates that we create 30 per cent more rubbish than usual at this time of year, using more than 300,000 tonnes of card and sending more than 100 million bags of garbage to landfill.

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So even if you over-indulged this festive season, what can you do to reduce your waste and go into the New Year guilt-free?

Trees for life

Around six million real Christmas trees will end up in landfill this year, according to Fresh Start waste management company. These will take years to decompose, releasing methane, which is said to have 25 times the potency of carbon dioxide. If you don’t own a shredder, your local council may run a recycling scheme which takes trees and turns them into wood chippings and compost to be used on parks and gardens. Find out about tree recycling schemes in your area by entering your postcode into the Recycling Locator at recyclenow.com. Or try the charity Just Helping, which collects trees on behalf of hospices and other charities. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, but charity shops or voluntary organisations may welcome them.

Real Christmas tree

Getty Imagessuteishi

Wrap up that wrapping paper

Some local councils accept discarded wrapping paper for recycling, others don’t, so check first before putting it in your paper bin or dropping off at your nearest recycling centre. As a general rule, paper which is laminated, contains glitter or is very thin with few fibres, isn’t suitable for recycling. Try the simple ‘scrunch test’. If the paper holds its shape when scrunched into a ball, it’s recyclable; if it springs back, it’s not. Remember to remove sticky tape and plastic bows before recycling. Alternatively, if you have children, set them to work turning wrapping paper into ‘confetti’ for New Year parties and backing back-to-school books and files with their favourite designs.

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Christmas wrapping paper in ball, close-up

Getty ImagesPeter Dazeley

Go for re-gifting

Would someone benefit from the four scarves and three woolly hats thoughtful friends and relatives gave you? Could yet another shower gel set help a person in need? Before stuffing unwanted presents in the back of a cupboard – or worse, throwing them in the bin – find a charity which helps homeless people or less well-off families and donate directly. Or give to your favourite charity shop or good cause to sell or use as raffle prizes. If there’s a Freegle network in your area, it’s a great place to offer up gifts you don’t need. Someone, somewhere may just be looking for a sandwich toaster or electric foot-warmer.

Man placing Christmas present, under Christmas tree.

Getty ImagesAnchiy

Play your cards right

Some local collection schemes may be in operation, but the latest advice from the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle campaign is to place Christmas cards in your regular card/paper recycling bin, remembering to remove embellishments and any batteries beforehand. Or you could get creative and turn them into gift tags, calendars or thank you cards, a great way to amuse children already bored of their Christmas toys.

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Hanging Christmas cards

Getty ImagesJohner Images

Food for thought

We will have already thrown away the equivalent of 54 million platefuls of food this Christmas, according to research by GP batteries, so anything we can save is a bonus. Before binning the fruit bowl, dig out the recipe book and seek inspiration. Over-ripe bananas can be transformed into banana bread, satsumas make delicious orange cake and half-empty bottles of liquors are a treat in trifles. Stale bread, cakes and mince pies will be welcomed by hungry winter birds, who also like chopped fruit and nuts. And when you clear out your cupboards ready for January’s re-stock, take any spare tinned goods or items with long use-by dates to a food bank.

Christmas fruit mince pies over rustic wooden background

Getty ImagesvonEisenstein


Remember, Christmas in particular can have a startling impact on the environment. More research by the London Cleaning System sheds some light:

  • 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used at Christmas; enough to cover London’s famous landmark, Big Ben, almost 260,000 times
  • 1 billion cards end up in the bin, when they could be recycled
  • 6 million Christmas trees are discarded every year
  • 250 tonnes of Christmas trees are thrown away after Christmas, when they could be used for compost
  • Some 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas
  • 13,350 tonnes of glass are thrown out in the UK after Christmas.

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    Christmas tree made of fir needles on wooden floor

    Getty ImagesMonstersparrow



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