Your Ultimate Guide to Recycling Christmas Waste

christmas waste

So, we’ve shopped, we’ve prepped, we’ve wrapped, we’ve cooked, we’ve eaten and hopefully been merry, and then we are left with the aftermath! It can be very tempting just to scoop everything into a bin and forget about it. But really, if there’s one time you should make the effort, it’s Christmas! When you think about the quantities involved it is frightening! Here is our Ultimate Guide to recycling this Christmas. 


It’s going to happen – there are going to be leftovers. Even if you have consciously tried not to overbuy or overfeed, there will be leftovers and hopefully, you’ll have some recipes up your sleeve to use a lot of them. Check out our fantastic guide to reducing Christmas food waste courtesy of @secretsupperclub for some great recipes, and those crucial recommended portion sizes! I bet they are smaller than you think.

But remember, you can also freeze an awful lot including cheese, milk and cream.

Soup, turkey curry and bubble and squeak are your leftover friends without a doubt, with soup really providing your get out of food waste hell free card. More or less anything can be turned into soup.  Well, maybe not Christmas pudding.

  1. Sweat an onion for ten minutes in olive oil or butter.
  2. Pop your leftovers in the pan (vegetables, chopped ham etc) stir in for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour over 500ml vegetable stock (powdered bouillon is great for this).
  4. Simmer for ten mins (longer if you have raw veg), season well, then blitz.
  5. Taste and adjust.
  6. It may need a little acidity with a squeeze of lemon or vinegar.

Anything you really can’t use, please add to your food waste if you have it, feed it to the chickens, compost bin or maybe consider a new year’s resolution to ‘bokashi’! You can literally compost anything and food waste is the habit to get better at for 2020.

Chocolate Wrappers, Crisp Packets & Much More Besides

There are an awful lot of things that we can recycle now that people may not be aware of because they can’t put them in their recycling bin. This revolution has been created by a company called Terracycle who run a number of programmes on behalf of large companies such as Nestle, Walkers, Kinder and even LOL toys collecting things like chocolate wrappers, biscuit packets, crisp and nut packets, and even Pringles tubes. So as you unwrap your selection boxes, be sure to set those wrappers aside. Check out their website for your nearest collection point. Everything you collect usually also raises money for charity so it’s worth that little bit of extra effort.

If you happen to live in West Sussex, we have a quick reference guide for you here for your local schemes and locations.

Wrapping Paper

So you’ve diligently wrapped your presents in brown paper decorated in potato print, but your relatives and friends have furnished you with gifts wrapped in a variety of materials. The golden rules when trying to recycle gift wrap are as follows:

  • remove all tape and embellishments, ie. ribbons and tags if you can.
  • check if it scrunches or tears – if it tears it should be white inside like paper – if it is papery, it should be able to be recycled. Although anything glittery should not go in.
  • Check that your local authority recycles wrapping paper – most do, some don’t – you can find out if yours does here.
  • Save what you can for use in projects or next year. Definitely save all the ribbon you can. And of course, recycle those gift tags.

Christmas Cards

This is tricky these days as none of the major retailers seems to be running any of their recycling schemes, but you should be able to put most in your recycling bin at home. But remember, all that glisters is not gold – if it’s glittery or metallic it can’t go in, so tear off the fronts and recycle the backs only. And remove bells, whistles and anything dangly. Keep the fronts for some craft projects.

There is also an amazing project being run by @GirlIndustries is doing a #glitteramnesty upcycling glittery Christmas cards into decorations. If you are in the UK, you can send them all to her – make sure you do it before 31st January though.


We get through stacks of these at Christmas with our fairy lights and children’s toys but remember NEVER put them in your bin. Firstly they are full of valuable resources which can be recycled and use again, and secondly, they can cause dangerous fires at recycling plants. There are lots of battery recycling points at supermarkets or at your local recycling centre. Search for your nearest right here.

Christmas Trees

If you haven’t got one you can replant, then please make sure you recycle it properly. The Carbon Trust is quite clear about its advice that chipping or burning is definitely the best thing to do. Do take advice before you burn your tree in your wood burner though. Alternatively, it is likely that your local authority will either collect them as part of your local garden waste service if you pay for it, or you will be able to take it to your local recycling centre. Some garden centres will also take them for recycling or where I live, one of the local tree surgeons offers a Christmas tree recycling service in aid of the Woodland Trust. Christmas trees will usually be chipped down and made into compost for various uses.


Hopefully you’ll have gathered a collection that you want to use again and again, but if that collection is getting too big, charity shops are always grateful for them. If you’ve gone natural, then dispose of your foliage in the same way as your Christmas tree.


So cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, polythene…all have a useful secondary purpose in life. Even your bottle tops do if you look hard enough. Always try and look further than your local authority website for alternative ways of recycling. You can take any polythene to your local carrier bag recycling bin at supermarkets, bubble wrap can also go in or can be offered on things like Freegle or Facebook.

Get Social

We have a few waste-reducing groups around our area on Whats App and Facebook – it can be for a whole town or it can be just a small group of friends. A great and sociable way of offloading almost anything you don’t want! It is such a liberating way to go!

Beware Biodegradable

So many wrappings and receptacles marked biodegradable. They aren’t really as we don’t have appropriate facilities for them to break down in the UK, so make sure you don’t inadvertently add them to your recycling as they will contaminate the load. Home compost those marked home compostable if you can, but anything biodegradable must go in the normal general waste bin.

Beware Signs on Packaging

They are often misleading and misunderstood, so if you aren’t sure, check or ask us!!!! Here’s our very quick reference guide, but it’s still tricky to know!

It Pays to Recycle Properly..Literally

Above all, always check with your local authority about what you can and can’t recycle at Christmas. And if you can’t fit everything in your regular recycling bin, do gather it together to take it to your local household waste recycling facility. If it goes into your ‘general waste’ bin it will cost you and your local authority money to process, either by being sent to landfill, which incurs a landfill tax of over £90 per tonne, or it will be burned for fuel or energy, either in the UK or abroad. That means it costs you to process and to transport it to its final destination. Recycling EARNS money – it provides a commodity that your local authority can sell, and makes massive environmental sense every time.

If you have any specific recycling questions, you can always ask them on our Facebook Group – we love to dig around and find out the answers! But above all have a very merry and resourceful Christmas indeed!


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