Composting at Christmas

December 19, 2017

Show your compost bin some love this Christmas

A surprising amount of Christmas waste items can be composted, which has the double benefit of freeing up space in your general waste bin and producing lovely (free) compost for your garden.

If you aren’t in the habit of regularly using your compost bin in the colder months, Christmas is a good a time as any to get started, perhaps more so as you’ll likely be producing more compostable waste now than at any other time of year. It’s definitely worth the effort of slipping your shoes on and venturing out into the cold!

So, what Christmas waste can you compost?

For absolute novices, or those who have preveiouslty tried and failed at home composting, here’s a general guide to composting to get you started, and our short but to the point list of suggestions are below. If you are unsure if one particular item can / can’t be composted, try this website: if that doesn’t help, visit and write to Rod at

Food waste: Uncooked fruit and vegetable wastes can all be composted. That includes the peelings from your Christmas dinner vegetables, and the Satsuma peel leftover from your Christmas stocking. Cooked foods can only be composted if you have a hot bin, or if you use a food waste digester such as a green cone, bokashi bin or wormery.

If you are adding a lot of food waste to your compost bin, its worth knowing that these count as ‘green’ materials. You need to maintain a balance of 50% green to 50% brown materials in your compost bin.

Wrapping paper, Christmas cards and Cardboard (from packaging): Make sure you’re wrapping paper and cards don’t contain plastic or laminated materials (we only want paper) by doing the scrunch test. Also, remove any plastic tapes from your boxes as these won’t break down in the composting process. Paper and card are a great way to add air pockets to your compost bin, so take the opportunity to scrunch them up a bit to maximise that benefit.

These paper and card count as ‘brown’ materials – so make sure you balance their addition to your compost bin with an equal amount of ‘green’ materials.

Christmas trees: Yes, it is possible to compost a whole (real) Christmas tree. You’ll need to put in a bit of work by stripping the branches off the tree and breaking / cutting everything into small pieces first. The smaller the pieces better. You don’t really want any woody bits larger than your thumb going into your compost bin. Shredders make light work of this process if you have one. Thick woody pieces can however take a very long time to start to decompose (were talking a year or two before you see any progress) so be prepared to be patient, or consider composting only the smaller limbs if you don’t own a shredder. There is a misconception that composting pine needles will result in acidic compost. It’s not true, by the time the needles are composted they will have lost most of their acidic potency.

What about the weather? Good question. It’s true that the composting process works fastest in warm conditions. However, there are a range of ways to insulate your bin and to get the composting process kickstarted in the cold. has an excellent guide.

The last thing to say is that it’s never too late to give the gift of a compost bin.