Christmas Recycling Guide

Recycling at Christmas can be a bit of a minefield, do we really know what can and can’t be recycled?

With the amount of rubbish that is created during Christmas, it can be difficult to always know what to recycle. Can the packaging from the toy musical instrument you bought your daughter be recycled if half of the packaging is plastic and the other half is cardboard?

We wanted to answer all the questions you may have about recycling in this useful guide for people to use during the Christmas holidays.

This is why here at The Bag N Box Man we have created this handy guide that will explore whether there are different guidelines when it comes to recycling Christmas specific items such as Christmas Trees and wrapping paper.

Christmas trees

Real trees can be recycled into wood chippings and many councils have designated collection days. Out of the 118 UK councils that we contacted, only 15% offered tree collection services. Here are some of the examples of the councils that collect Christmas trees for recycling:

Shropshire council offers a real Christmas tree recycling service with the garden waste collection. Their waste contractor Veolia makes an annual contribution to a chosen charity to encourage maximum participation.

In North Northamptonshire, Christmas trees can be placed alongside the garden waste bin for recycling.

Wiltshire council does offer a time-limited Christmas tree collection for those subscribed for garden waste collections.

In Somerset, Christmas trees can be collected from paid garden waste subscribers. Trees are not collected from non-garden waste subscribers.

Following Christmas, Northumberland County Council accepts spent trees at designated sites for chipping and disposal. Householders must take their trees to these sites as they don’t collect.

In Comhairle nan Eilean Siar they recycle your real Christmas tree, you just need to take it to the Creed household recycling centre or chop it up to fit in your organic bin.

Dundee City Council states that Christmas trees must be placed out for green waste collection.

The Midlothian Council does collect Christmas trees but won’t uplift a real or artificial Christmas tree left next to the bin. It’s essential to ensure that all waste has to be securely presented within the bin to allow the bin to be emptied.

North Ayrshire Council allows Christmas trees to be left by the garden waste bin during the first three weeks of January. Christmas trees must be 3-4 feet in length and if they’re not, the tree must be cut in half. Annual information is made available to householders reminding them of the dates and size guidelines each year during their Christmas communication with customers.

The Renfrewshire Council has designated points where trees can be disposed of, in addition to the Council’s five Household Waste Recycling Centres.

The Shetland Islands Council collect Christmas Trees, if they are left outside next to a bin on general waste collection weeks.

The Highland Council provides a paid for garden waste collection service, which operates between March and November, where residents can take used real christmas trees to their nearest Recycling Centre.

The Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council collects Christmas trees and residents can leave a Christmas tree next to the bin.

Isle of Anglesey County Council do not collect Christmas trees, however they can be taken to their Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).

Flintshire County Council doesn't collect Christmas trees anymore as the garden waste collection service is closed over Winter and the vehicles only visit properties that are registered for the service. Real Christmas trees can also be taken to the nearest Household Waste Recycling Centre to be recycled.

Powys County Council doesn't specifically offer collection of Christmas trees from the kerb, but residents can take them to any of the five Household Waste Recycling Centres across Powys for free. Residents can also subscribe to the garden waste recycling collection service.

Monmouthshire County Council states that real Christmas trees can be taken to the nearest Household Waste Recycling Centre to be recycled.

Newry Mourne Down Council do not collect Christmas trees but they can be taken to one of the Council Household Recycling Centres for recycling.

Craven District Council does not collect Christmas trees from the kerb.

Hambleton District Council will only collect real Christmas trees from garden waste Licence holders and only if the tree is cut up and placed in the bin. They won’t pick up trees left next to the bin.

Finally, Ryedale District Council advises that Christmas Trees can be taken to a Household Waste Recycling Centre, or chopped up and placed in a garden waste bin to be collected.

Please note that artificial trees cannot be recycled, but we recommend reusing them next year as they don’t decompose like real trees do!

Wrapping paper

Have a look at your council’s individual website to see if they accept wrapping paper, but it's important to follow the scrunch test; if it can be scrunched up, then it can be recycled. If it can’t it has to go in the non-recyclable bin.
You must also remember to remove any sellotape before recycling.

Christmas cards

Christmas cards can nearly always be recycled unless they have glitter on, this is because  glitter can contaminate other waste during the recycling process.

Plastic packaging

Plastic waste is a huge environmental problem during Christmas, for instance around 125,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping used for food will also be discarded over the festive period.

Instead of using plastic packaging that threatens wildlife and spreads toxins, at Meanwell Packaging we have the answer to your Christmas packaging needs, with an extensive range of environmentally friendly packaging to choose from.

There are usually recycling symbols on packaging to show if it can be recycled or not and you can also look at your council’s website if you're unsure what plastic they collect.

As a rule of thumb, all clear and coloured plastic bottles including bleach bottles may be recycled.


We use around 300,000 tonnes of cardboard packaging every Christmas and here at Meanwell Packaging we recommend using our sustainable and cost-effective cardboard packaging for all your Christmas packaging needs to lower your carbon footprint.

The main types of cardboard you’ll find in people's homes are, corrugated cardboard (packing boxes) and the cardboard type that is used for food and drink packaging.

Both types are recyclable but check with your local councils because some collect them separately.

Food waste

As families gather together during the Christmas period and the festive season approaches, many households begin to purchase food for Christmas, Boxing day and into the New Year and this food is usually bought in excess. Most of the time, leftover food is normally wasted as We all make too much food during Christmas, therefore, leftovers are inevitable.

The Big Issue estimates that the UK throws away 270,000 tonnes of food each year and a disproportionate amount of this is at Christmas time. This is the reason we recommend reusing some of the leftovers you have to make some tasty dishes on boxing day.

Anything that can’t be eaten on boxing day should go straight into the food waste bin.

Christmas Decorations

Thankfully Christmas decorations can be reused year after year. For the decorations that are worn out or broken, some may be recycled:

  • Real wreaths can go into your garden waste bin, as long as they don’t have glitter or glue on them.
  • Fairy lights are classed as electronic equipment and therefore should be taken to your local waste recycling centre, not put into the general waste bin.
  • Sadly tinsel and baubles cannot be recycled in the UK no matter which area you live in and that therefore should be put into the general waste bin.

Individual Council Recycle Guidelines

Worcestershire County Council advises that during Christmas, glittery Christmas cards should not be recycled and should instead be disposed of in a residual bin.

North Northamptonshire Council says residents should recycle wrapping paper ,as long as it is predominantly paper and not plastic coated.

Northumberland County Council asks residents not to place any cards or paper with glitter, bows or sellotape into the recycling bin. They also ask residents to put foil backed wrapping paper and polystyrene into the general waste bin. They don’t accept tin foil trays in the recycling, which is the same for the rest of the year, however, they do accept metal biscuit tins.

Surrey County Council asserts that certain wrapping paper can be recycled if they are made of paper rather than plastic.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar mentions that you should recycle all your Christmas cards, wrapping paper, plastic bottles, cans, glass bottles and jars, by using the recycling bins or the local recycling bank.

Inverclyde Council says that Christmas cards, Christmas catalogues and wrapping paper should be put in the blue bin or container to be recycled.

Isle of Anglesey County Council ask residents not to place any wrapping paper containing plastic coating or glitter in the recycling trolley as these are unrecyclable. You should only place wrapping paper that is 100% paper and that you can scrunch up and place in the top trolley box.

Flintshire County Council say that wrapping paper can be recycled in red bags, provided it’s not made from foil, plastic or glitter wrap, Christmas cards can also be recycled in the red bags as well.

The Monmouthshire County Council asks residents to recycle wrapping paper in red bags, provided it’s not made from foil, plastic or glitter wrap. Christmas cards can also be recycled in these red bags too, all food waste can be recycled using the kerb collection.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, say the materials that can be recycled in the blue bin are, glass, plastic bottles and containers, chocolate and sweet tins, wrapping paper and cards (without glitter), cardboard boxes, empty aerosols and drinks cartons. Tin baking trays can be recycled, but they must be clean and all food waste can be recycled in the brown bin.

Finally, the Ryedale District Council mentions that wrapping paper is recyclable on the kerb, excluding foil, glitter and sellotape. Christmas cards can be recycled at the kerb, excluding glitter and bows. Fairy lights can be recycled at the Household Waste Recycling centre and clean foil trays and foil can be recycled at the mini recycling centres.

We hope our Christmas recycling guide has helped you comprehend all the various recycling rules around the UK.

We also hope the UK continues to recycle not just at Christmas, but throughout the year, because it reduces the pollution caused by waste. It also reduces the need for raw materials, so that the rainforests can be preserved along with a plethora of other benefits for our planet.

Please note that we always recommend checking your individual Council’s website for in depth recycling information.

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