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Recycling at Christmas

Read our handy Christmas recycling guide to find out what you can & can't recycle, and creative ways of recycling Christmas paper & cards!


By Cleanipedia Team

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Christmas is a time for giving, and many of us like to give and receive at Christmas, including presents wrapped in beautiful paper and sealed with bows and ribbons, and thoughtful and decorative greetings cards. However, once the festive period is over, what do you do with all that card and paper? Some people throw it out, but while this is the quickest option, it’s not always the best, and if you and your family are striving to become more environmentally friendly, you may wish to look into alternative ways to dispose of your card and paper. Here’s your guide to what can, and what can’t, be recycled, and you’ll also find some great tips for reusing old card and paper to cut down on waste, save money, and make cool crafts with your kids.

Your Christmas Recycling Guide

It can sometimes be difficult to know what types of paper and card you can recycle, and which you can’t. If you’re unsure of whether you can recycle something or not, here’s what you need to know:


  • Plain, paper-based wrapping that has all bows, ribbons, and sticky tape removed

  • 100% recycled wrapping paper, free from bows, ribbons, and sticky tape

  • Simple, paper-based greeting cards with staples removed

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Don’t Recycle

  • Wrapping paper that is coated in plastic or foil, or includes glittery or embossed elements

  • Wrapping paper that still have bows, ribbons, or sticky tape attached

  • Greeting cards with bows, ribbons, badges, or staples attached

The reason why some wrapping paper and greetings cards cannot be recycled is because recycling machinery is not equipped to cope with plastic- or foil-coated papers, and sticky tape, bows, and ribbons could potentially damage the machinery. For those items that you can recycle, keep an eye on your local council website, or your local newspaper, to see how your council wants you to recycle your Christmas wrapping and cards. Some will remove wrapping paper from your household recycling bins, while others request you take wrapping paper to a nearby recycling bank so the paper can be checked before being recycled.

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Get Creative: Reuse Wrapping Paper & Cards at Home

For those items that you cannot recycle at Christmas, there are many other options than throwing them out in the bin to be piled onto landfill. Here are just a few great ideas for reusing old wrapping paper and cards:

  • Use the plain backing of wrapping paper to write down your shopping lists

  • Cut out pictures from greeting cards and use them to make your own cards

  • Protect your kids’ school books by wrapping the covers in colourful paper

  • Brighten up your kitchen by covering old biscuit tins in Christmas wrapping paper

  • Line your drawers with wrapping paper to liven up your bedroom

  • Love your wrapping paper? Frame it, hang it, and make it into art

  • Cut greeting cards to make gift tags for next year’s presents

  • Cut pictures from greeting cards and stick a magnet on the back for a festive decoration

  • Slice up a greeting card, creating an instant jigsaw puzzle for your kids

  • Tear the front off a greeting card and transform it into a festive postcard for a friend.

How to Cut Down on Waste

These are all great ways to cut down on your Christmas rubbish, but another great way is to purchase environmentally friendly wrapping paper and greeting cards that make it easier for your friends and family to reuse in the new year. Consider buying fabric wrapping for gifts, using recyclable wrapping paper, or sending e-cards online. Or, you can even buy greeting cards made from seed paper, which can be planted after Christmas to create a bright and colourful addition to the garden. Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of excessive waste – instead, it can be a great opportunity to learn more about recycling, and teach our children about the environment.

Find out how to prepare for Christmas and clean up after with these handy checklists.

Originally published