From mistletoe and mince pies to ugly sweaters and tipsy relatives, every family celebrating Christmas has a different take on some age-old traditions. But Christmas waste is a not-so-festive tradition the UK recognises every year, with stories surfacing each December about the excess of paper and packaging that ends up in landfill after the celebrations are over.

69 per cent of people feel that the amount of waste thrown out at Christmas is unacceptable, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign. However, 22 per cent of those surveyed also claimed to have too much waste in their homes to recycle during the festive period. Sorting out your Christmas waste might feel like a struggle, but much of the problem comes from competing and often conflicting information about what can and cannot be recycled from those festive leftovers. More and more local authorities are wising up to the Christmas waste question and providing advice on their websites, but when it comes to wrapping paper and Christmas cards this advice is often very varied due to differences in reprocessors’ approaches.

Below is a breakdown of how to recycle these top used items over Christmas...

Wrapping paper

Check on your council’s website to see if it accepts wrapping paper - if so, follow the scrunch test! If it stays scrunched up it can be recycled - if not, put it in the general waste bin.

Remove sellotape before recycling.

Consider saving your wrapping paper so that you can reuse it next year.


Chances are, despite your best efforts, you still had to revert to the internet to finish off your Christmas shopping. We use around 300,000 tonnes of card packaging every Christmas (the equivalent of two million reindeer) - make sure all your boxes make it into the recycling.

A lovely card, but those sequins could be a problem

Christmas cards

Easily recyclable unless they have glitter on.

Plastic packaging

Getting rid of all the cases, bottles, boxes and so on can get tricky. Recycling symbols on packaging show what can usually be recycled and you’ll have to check your council’s website if you’re unsure about what types of plastic they collect. All clear and coloured plastic bottles from the home can usually be recycled, including bleach products.

Food waste

After making the most of your inevitable leftovers with some creative cooking (bubble and squeak, anyone?) anything that can’t be eaten should go straight into the food waste bin.

Christmas trees

Real trees can be recycled into wood chippings. Many local authorities advertise designated collection days in early January. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, but if you’re not re-using it, why not take it to a local charity shop?


Luckily, most of our Christmas decorations can be reused year-on-year. For those that are completely worn out, some can be recycled:

Wreaths can go into your garden waste as long as they don’t have glitter or glue on them.

Fairy lights are classed as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and should go to your local household waste recycling centre, not into the general bin.

Tired tinsel and broken baubles (glass or plastic) cannot currently be recycled in the UK and should go into the general waste bin.

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