Christmas Waste and Recycling

December 19, 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas is wonderful, but when the time comes to dispose of Christmas items, we are sometimes left wondering “Can I recycle this?”. The list of common Christmas waste items below outlines what can and can’t be recycled and contains links to further information.


Advent Calendars – Are partly recyclable. Advent calendars (the type that contain chocolates) usually have a plastic tray with a layer of foil glued on one side. This tray is usually encased in a cardboard sleeve. The cardboard sleeve is recyclable and can be placed in your kerbside collection. The plastic / foil composite inner isn’t easily recyclable and should be placed in the general waste collection (unless your local Council specifies otherwise). Some people do go to the effort of carefully removing the foil from the plastic tray so that they can be recycled separately, but if you intend to do this beware that leaving even a small amount of foil on the plastic tray can render it unrecyclable. Also, some manufacturers use plastics that are non-recyclable.

Baubles – Glass baubles are not recyclable. Placing them in your recycling collection with bottles and jars can contaminate large amounts of glass that could otherwise be recycled. If you need to dispose of glass baubles they need to be wrapped up to avoid harming anyone (if they are broken or not) and placed into the general waste bin.

Plastic baubles aren’t recyclable. The plastics used to make them are not widely recycled in the UK, and many are coated in paint, glitter, fabric and or glue which are also unrecyclable.

Courtesy of: pixabay

Candles –  Wax shouldn’t be placed in your kerbside recycling collection. If you have a glass jar that’s covered in wax, the wax should be removed before the jar is put out for recycling. It is possible to re-melt wax and form it into new candles, it also makes a good firelighter. However, if you can’t reuse it, wax is best placed in the general waste bin. Don’t risk blocking your drains by melting it with hot water and pouring it down the sink.

Cardboard boxes – These are recyclable in your kerbside collection, at Recycling and Household Waste Sites and at many bring banks. If possible it’s best to fold large boxes flat rather than ripping them up. Only clean and dry cardboard can be recycled, so store boxes somewhere dry in inclement weather. Cardboard is a great addition to compost bins and heaps even if it is wet.

Corks -Natural corks, plastic and foam alternatives cannot be recycled. If you can’t reuse them for something they should be placed in the general waste bin. Natural corks can be composted.

Christmas cards – Most greetings cards can be recycled (along with their envelopes) in your kerbside collection, but first tear off anything that’s not made of paper first. Decorations such as; glitter, bows, ribbons and googly eyes will need to be reused or disposed of separately.

Batteries from musical cards can be recycled (find out where here) but most other decorations/ adornments will need to go into the general waste bin if you can’t reuse them.

Christmas trees – Unfortunately, most plastic trees can’t be recycled owing to the types of plastics used to make them.

Real trees can be recycled at your local Recycling and Household Waste site. Some councils allow you to dispose of real Christmas trees as part of their ‘green waste / garden waste’ service, but before leaving your tree out for collection, contact your council and check if they accept Christmas trees as part of this service, and how best to present your tree for collection if it doesnt easily fit into the bin provided. For example, many councils may refuse to collect large trees that have been wedged into bins.

Please remember to remove all lights and decorations before taking or leaving trees to be recycled.

Some charities will sometimes collect and recycle real trees after Christmas for a fee. Check local newspapers and charity websites to see what’s available locally.

Most trees left for ‘recycling will be composted. If you don’t subscribe to a garden waste collection you could try composting your own Christmas tree (and lots of other Christmas waste items) at home.


Fairy lights – Christmas lights can be recycled, but unless your local council says it’s OK to do so, shouldn’t be placed in your kerbside recycling collection. If your local council doesn’t collect WEEE at the kerbside you can take fairy lights to your local Recycling and Household Waste Site, or one of the places listed here.

Glass – Empty jars and bottles can be placed in your kerbside recycling collection, or can be taken to your local Recycling and Household Waste Site. However, glass (and ceramics) from things like broken drinking glasses, pyrex bowls, broken ornaments and window glass can’t be recycled. These should be wrapped up to avoid sharp edges hurting anyone and placed carefully in the general waste bin – or taken to your local Recycling and Household Waste Site.

Tinsel – Tinsel cannot be recycled. It should be placed in the general waste bin. If you are looking to purchase a replacement decoration, please consider a recyclable alternative.

Wrapping paper – Check for glitter and do the scrunch test to determine if the paper is recyclable or not. If the paper is not glittery and passes the scrunch test it can be placed in your kerbside recycling collection. Remove as much sticky tape as possible and all bows, ribbons and non-paper items.

Wreathes – Typically these aren’t recyclable. However, natural materials from wreathes such as ivy, fir cones, mistletoe and holly can be composted, placed in your green / garden waste collection or taken to a Recycling and Household Waste Site. Artificial materials such as wire, ribbons, glue and anything that’s covered in glitter or paint need to be disposed of in the general waste bin.