Knowing what you can and can’t recycle is hard enough on a daily basis. But when it comes to Christmas, a lot of people struggle to know what they can and can’t throw into the recycling bin. We’re giving you six areas to think about when it comes to your plastic footprint this Christmas:

Wrapping paper – it’s most likely UNRECYCLABLE.

Before you wrap your presents, consider the paper’s material. Shiny, metallic, glittery paper cannot be recycled! 60% of the UK public incorrectly recycled this type of paper last year. If placed wrongly in the recycling bin, it will end up contaminating the stream. This results in a rejection of whole loads of recycled materials, which will then be disposed of via landfill or incineration.

Have you heard about the scrunch test? If you’re unsure whether your paper is recyclable, scrunch it into a ball. If it keeps its shape, it is recyclable. But if it’s glittery, it isn’t!

Ethical guide to wrapping presents

  • Swap traditional gift wrapping for brown paper.
  • Use raffia ribbon for tying presents, or even hemp! (Image inspiration here)
  • Want to keep your carbon footprint low when ordering all these pieces? Avoid excess packaging, and order in one go from Amazon. (Both brown paper and raffia ribbon can be purchased from this supplier). Alternatively find smaller eco-friendly suppliers like:

Pipii (@pipiiathome), Transpack (@transpack), who all do plastic-free ribbon and wrapping.

  • Use pretty flowers or take a piece of your fir tree to decorate presents.
  • Use paper tape to complete the mission! Although not mainstream or found on the high street, this can be bought from Kite Packaging (@kitepackaging).

Christmas trees and wreaths

To buy or to not buy a plastic Christmas tree… the only upside of these is that when bought once, they can last forever. They’re not designed for single use, so if you prefer this type of tree, then please store it in your attic for next year.

Real Christmas trees should be cut up into small pieces and put in your garden waste bin. But check your local authority website first, as some may even offer a collection service.

If you have a wreath or spring of mistletoe or holly, remove any synthetic hangers or decorations before you put them into the garden waste bin or compost.

Clean the dishes together!

It’s tempting to use disposable plates, napkins and cutlery. But it’s a waste of resources and a potential nightmare for recycling. Dirty paper plates, napkins and paper towels will contaminate the recycling facility and mean people’s efforts go to waste.

Many plastic cups and other food ware are low grade plastic. This means many types are not recyclable, so it’s important to cross reference these against your local guidelines.

Making sense of recycling symbols

Don’t be fooled by the loop symbol! It doesn’t mean that the item can be recycled or has been recycled. You need to check out your local collection system.

Although there are moves happening to simplify recycling symbols (albeit these may take a while) go to your local authority website and check what they can take. Use the guidance on websites such as Recycle Now to help you understand the current symbols in use ->

What to do with unwanted gifts and toys?

If a product is made of materials which on their own are recyclable but cannot be easily disassembled – DO NOT put them into the recycling bin! It is better if they are still functioning to donate them to charity for reuse.

Always take batteries out of toys which are made of a singular plastic and recycle them through a battery collection scheme. Otherwise they can cause serious fires in a Materials Recycling Facility.