The header image for "5 Dos and Don'ts of Christmas Recyling" festuring a decorating Christmas tree and gifts

5 Dos and Don’ts of Christmas Recycling

It’s easy to get swept up in the joy and indulgence of the holiday season, especially in a year like this one. I’m not here to tell you to hold back – I am diving head-first into Christmas this year. Drinking in the holiday spirit like it’s oxygen. But we all know this time of year is one of excess, leading to large amounts of waste.

I’m sure many of you reading this will make great efforts to minimise your impact at this time of year – and one of those efforts is through militant recycling! Which is great! I would like to ensure you are equipped with with the information you need to be a recycling dynamo this holiday season.

An estimate from 2013 (the most recent I could find) suggests that the UK throws away enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon or round the world NINE times each year. I like to think we’ve come a long way since then, but knowing the chaos of Christmas and how people would rather shove it in a bin bag and be done with it – one can’t be sure. In addition to this blasé attitude, a major problem with recycling wrapping paper is that not all of it is recyclable. The paper is often adorned with glitter, plastic coatings, and metallic embellishments making them lovely to look at, but sealing their fate in the waste bin.

Similarly festive cards, with an estimated 900 million to 1.7 billion being sent each year in the UK, are also often covered with non-recyclable aspects such as glitter, glue, metallics etc. However, it is estimated as much as 1 billion cards that could be recycled end up in the bin!

Many people don’t try to recycle their Christmas waste, the stress of Christmas Day is enough already, but it isn’t as hard as you think.


5 Dos and Don’ts of Christmas recycling:

DO – The Scrunch test!

If you can scrunch your paper into a ball and it stays there, it is likely that this paper is able to be recycled! If it doesn’t pass the test, it will need to be put to general waste or reused.

DON’T – Assume all your paper-based waste is recyclable

Tis the season of glitter. Which is, unfortunately, not recyclable. To be recyclable, your wrapping paper and cards need to be:

  • Free of glitter. Glitter gets everywhere and could end up contaminating a whole batch of recycling and making unfit for purpose.
  • Not metallic.
  • Not laminated (thick and glossy)
  • Not too thin. If the paper is too thin the fibres will be too short and unfit for recycling.

Anything that has any of the above should be put into general waste or repurposed.

DO – Check with your local recycling authority first!

Many councils will accept appropriate wrapping paper in their collections but some don’t as the paper mills won’t accept it. So to ensure that your paper will get recycled and you aren’t contaminating other recyclable items, check with your local authority first. Most will have a website you can check, or give them a call!

DON’T – Forget to remove any sticky tape!

Sticky tape is non-recyclable plastic and contaminates the paper, making it much harder to recycle. To ensure that your paper can be recycled, check for stray bits of plastic!

DO – Try to reuse or upcycle!

If, like me, you hate when people just rip into the paper from anywhere so you take twice as long as everyone else opening presents carefully along the tape lines. If you’re careful enough, you will probably be able to use this paper again. Everyone’s gotta have a thing, so why not be that person who hoards used wrapping paper? It’s for the planet.

Christmas cards and wrapping paper that is beyond saving can be upcycled into new cards, present tags, a collage, a scrapbook, decoupage, and more I’m sure. Your trash could be your treasure.


Alternatives to traditional wrapping paper:

If you haven’t wrapped your presents yet, consider using something other than traditional wrapping paper.

From: Ministry of Environment Japan
  • Japanese-style fabric wrapping
  • Gift bags/boxes – these can be reused
  • Plain brown wrapping paper (you could draw your own designs!)
  • Newspaper
  • Gum tape – Used by artists and frame-makers, is made of paper and can be recycled with the paper. Britons use over 40 million rolls of sellotape, an average of a roll and a half per household, over the Christmas period – which goes directly in the bin!

I know you have better things to be doing than painstakingly sorting your recycling this Christmas, but many hands make light work. Ten minutes out of your 2020 is nothing, and you know it. Stay safe, wash your hands, and have a happy new year!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Holidays,

Jessica x

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