A quick guide to recycling at Christmas

November 27, 2023

This quick guide provides advice on how to recycle or dispose of some waste items that commonly cause confusion around this time of the year.

For a list for non-Christmas items, and to find out more about how your recycling is dealt with in Leicestershire, visit our recycling pages.

Whatever the time of year, when recycling please remember to:

  • Empty, rinse and dry all bottles and containers.
  • Place the lid back on all bottles, jars and containers
  • Packaging should be empty, and items should go in to the bin loose (not in a plastic bin liner).
  • Flatten cardboard and keep it dry.
  • Recycle batteries and electrical equipment at a dedicated collection point, never put these items in your recycling or black bins.


aluminium foilAluminium foil & foil trays

These can be recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Make sure foil and trays are clean and dry to avoid contaminating other recyclable materials in your collection. Once food residue has been rinsed / wiped off foil should be screwed into a ball at least the size of a tennis ball to prevent it being lost during the recycling process (the bigger the better).

Munch and scrunch you aluminium foil

an artificial Christmas treeArtificial trees

Artificial trees are not recyclable and will need to be disposed of in your general waste bin (if small enough to fit), taken to a Recycling and Household Waste Site for disposal, or collected as an item of bulky waste. Try to use your tree for as many years as possible before replacing it. Artificial trees in good condition can be donated via charity shops, or you may be able to sell it.


A real cut Christmas treeReal cut Christmas trees

It’s possible to shred and compost a real cut Christmas tree at home. If you don’t have a shredder they can be taken to Recycling and Household Waste Site for composting; please ensure all decorations and tree stands are removed first. Larger trees need to be cut into sections, so no section is longer than 1m in length, with a trunk / branch diameter of no more than 15cm.

Your District / Borough council may offer a tree collection service after Christmas. Some charities also offer Christmas tree collection and recycling services.


a battery  Batteries

Batteries and electronic equipment containing batteries should never go into your kerbside bins. They can cause fires and explosions in waste collection vehicles and/or in waste sorting machinery. Instead take them to a dedicated battery collection point. All Recycling and Household Waste Sites accept domestic batteries.


glass bottlesBottles & cans

Can be recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Remember to rinse out first, drain and then pop the lid back on before recycling. Bottles and cans can also be taken to bring banks and Recycling and Household Waste Sites for recycling. If your bottle contains LED string lights, please remove these from the bottle and recycle them as you would fairy lights (see below).


a calendarCalendars and diaries

Calendars and diaries can be recycled provided they are made of paper and card and aren’t covered in plastic or additional decorations. If they are, place them in your general waste bin.

The cardboard sleeve of advent calendars can be separated from the foil covered plastic tray and recycled. The foil covered plastic trays should be placed in the general waste.


Cards and envelopes

All types of envelopes can be recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Cards can be recycled there too as long as they are not too shiny and don’t contain any glitter or other embellishments. Cards covered with glitter or with lots of other embellishments cannot be recycled and will need to be placed in your general waste bin or reused for home made gift tags.


Clothing, bags and belts

Good quality items can be sold or donated to charity. Some charity shops accept rags also, but check with them first. Unless your council has a dedicated collection bag, textiles including clothing, footwear, handbags, belts, towels, blankets and rags can be taken to a clothes bank or your local Recycling and Household Waste Sites for reuse or recycling.


a Christmas crackerChristmas crackers

Crackers tend to be made up of a mix of materials and components making them unsuitable for recycling. Consider taking time to separate out the recyclable cardboard from the non-recyclable embellishments. Otherwise, place them in your general waste bin. Consider making or investing in reusable crackers next year.


a baubleChristmas decorations

The majority of decorations are not recyclable and need to be disposed of in your general waste bin or taken to a Recycling and Household Waste Site for disposal. This includes baubles (glass or plastic) and tinsel. If the decorations are in good condition they could be donated to charity instead. Broken baubles and ornaments with sharp edges should be carefully wrapped before disposal to reduce the chance of anyone being harmed.


a string of fairy lightsFairy lights / Christmas lights

Lights are Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and should be recycled, but not in your regular kerbside recycling bin. All Leicestershire Recycling and Household Waste Sites have WEEE collection points and many electrical retailers also offer WEEE collection points in store. Find your nearest  donation or recycling point at: www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk


a sproutFood Waste

Unless you can home compost it, or have a dedicated separate food waste collection, food waste needs to be disposed of in your residual waste collection (the black bin). Food waste should never be mixed with recyclable materials such as paper, card or glass as it contaminates these materials and makes them unrecyclable.


a gift bagGift bags

Paper and card gift bags can be reused, or recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Bags with lots of glitter or other embellishments and those made from anything other than paper or cardboard can’t be recycled. These should be reused or placed in your general waste bin.


a wrapped giftGift wrap / Wrapping paper

Paper that’s not shiny or covered in lots of glitter can be recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Shiny metallic and laminated paper can’t be recycled and should go into your general waste bin. If in doubt do the scrunch test. Tissue and crepe paper can’t be recycled. Gift tags, sticky tape, string, bows and ribbons cannot be recycled and should be removed from recyclable paper and disposed of in your general waste bin.


a cooked turkeyLeftovers & surplus food

Food waste causes climate change, so surplus food should be eaten, frozen or shared before it becomes inedible. Help with storing and cooking leftovers can be found at http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. The free Olio app is a good way to share unwanted food items if your friends, neighbours or family don’t want it. Food waste should be disposed of in your general waste bin and never in your kerbside recycling collection. Uncooked vegetable peelings can be home composted.


a satsumaPlastic net bags

The nets from satsumas and nuts are not recyclable and should be disposed of in your general waste bin. Before disposing of them they can be reused as pan scourers.


polystyrene balls (close up)  Polystyrene packaging

Polystyrene blocks and small shapes aren’t acceptable in your kerbside recycling collection. Please dispose of them in your general waste bin or at your local Recycling and Household Waste Site.


Real Christmas trees

Check arrangements with your local district council as many offer the collection of real trees via garden waste collections. Real Christmas trees can also be taken to Recycling and Household Waste sites for disposal, where trees must be undecorated (no baubles, lights or or fake snow). Larger trees need to be cut down and trimmed to 15cm wide (trunk diameter) and lengths up to 1m before arriving at a site. Remember to check opening times and remove pots and holders from your tree first too. Trees left for Leicestershire councils as above will be composted if free from artificial snow.


Sweet and biscuit, tins and boxes

Plastic (except any black plastic) and metal tins and containers can be recycled in your kerbside recycling collection. Please remove all sweets and sweet wrappers first as these are not recyclable.


Toys and games

Working toys and games in good condition can be sold, given away or donated to charity. Three charities specialise in giving unwanted toys a second life: Toys4life, Young Planet, The Toy Project, although many other charities will accept toys and games in good condition.

Broken toys / incomplete games and those in poor condition cannot be recycled in your kerbside wate collection as they typically contain hard plastics and a mix of other materials.

Toys containing batteries and electronic components should be recycled as electrical waste, find your nearest toy recycling point here. Alternatively, take them to your local Recycling and Household Waste Site.

Non-electronic toys and games containing hard plastics should be disposed of in general waste, or taken to a Recycling and Household Waste Site for disposal.


Unwanted gifts

Unwanted items should be returned to the shop (always give a gift receipt), re-solddonated to charity or passed on to other people.


a wreathWreaths

Natural elements (such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, leaves, twigs and pine cones) can be placed in your home compost bin, in your garden waste collection or taken to a Recycling and Household Waste Site to be composted. Everything else can be reused or placed in your general waste bin. Do not compost anything that’s covered in glitter, paint, glue or fake snow.