What to recycle after Christmas is over

Christmas can seem like a distant dream for most of the year, but once December arrives, the festive season soon comes and goes, leaving those of us who played host to clean up the mess it leaves behind.

While many households are becoming more conscious of reducing the waste packaging they produce and using more eco-friendly wrapping papers and decorations, there’s usually still a small mountain of waste to deal with.

So what can be recycled – and how easily?

Christmas Cards

One of the easiest things to recycle if you’re not too sentimental to throw them away, Christmas cards can usually go in your normal household paper recycling, or you can put them in one of the special bins that appear in the supermarkets in January.

Wrapping Paper

Check with your local council as rules differ by area. Remove all plastic sticky tape.

You probably know not to put metallic foil wrapping in your paper recycling, but you also should not try to recycle paper with glitter or individual metallic stars or other shapes.

The best option is to plan ahead by using recycled and recyclable paper wrapping.

Cardboard Boxes

Anything large that came by post probably arrived in a cardboard box.

If the cardboard is reasonably clean, you probably can put it in your household paper recycling bin – again, remove any large pieces of tape, and remember to take out any plastic or polystyrene inserts.


Large retailers must, by law, provide a place for you to return used batteries for recycling – this should include most common household batteries.

You can reduce your battery waste by using rechargeable batteries, which should also mean if the shops are shut, you’re only a short recharge away from having a working toy or electronic gadget again.

Christmas Trees

Real Christmas trees are best recycled by chipping them to be used in local parks and woodlands, and your local council may offer a disposal service in a nearby park in the weekends immediately after Christmas and New Year. Take advantage of this, because a dead Christmas tree is awkward to dispose of otherwise!

Tree Baubles

Most mass-market Christmas tree baubles cannot be recycled – this includes glass baubles and most plastic tree ornaments too.

This is one that requires forward planning to favour decorations that are made of recyclable materials, or just to take good care of them year by year.

Fairy Lights

Old sets of fairy lights and Christmas tree lights can be recycled.

Your kerbside collection may take them if they are bagged and separate from other waste, or you can usually recycle them at your local council tip.

Leftover Food

If it’s suitable, compost it or put it in your kitchen waste bin. Alternatively, eat it! Plenty of food is still edible even after its best before date, and you may be able to freeze some items for later – see how far you can get into January before you need to do a big food shop.