Published 1st of December 2021
Not sure whether you can recycle Christmas wrapping paper? What about tissue paper or your empty advent calendar after you’ve burst your way into all the chocolates?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas leads to a lot more waste than your average day off work. In fact, the amount of wrapping paper thrown out in the UK from just one Christmas would stretch to the moon - that’s around 108 million rolls per year used by Brits alone.
While we specialise in document security, we also know a thing or two about minimising how much waste gets sent to landfill. The more we can all recycle at Christmas, the better it will be for the environment.
For many people, just working out what can and can’t be recycled is a big barrier to actually doing it. We’ve put together this little Christmas Q & A to help take away the ambiguity around common Christmas waste products so that we can all treat the planet a little better this December.
Can I recycle wrapping paper?
A lot of wrapping paper can be recycled - as long as any bows,ribbons and sticky tape are removed. The only paper that you can’t recycle is foil or glittery paper, which unfortunately needs to go into your general waste bin.
Some local authorities won’t accept wrapping paper for recycling at all as they can contain materials which aren’t suitable, whether that’s dye, lamination or non-paper additives which simply cannot be recycled.
We recommend checking in with your local council to see if they accept wrapping paper.
How to check if your wrapping paper is recyclable
A simple test is the scrunch test:
- Crumple the paper up
- If it stays crumpled, recycle it.
- If it unfolds, put it in the bin.
You can make a difference in the weeks leading up to Christmas by choosing to buy paper that can be recycled. Recyclable paper is available at the lower and higher ends of the price spectrum and comes in all sorts of varieties.
If you can’t get your hands on recyclable wrapping paper, one cheap, eco-friendly alternative that is easy to switch to is brown paper. Rustic and still just as festive, you can add a Christmassy bow by using a piece of string or recyclable material.
If you’re concerned about reducing your Christmas waste, make sure all the paper you use can go in the recycling bin. It’ll make it much easier for you and your local authorities to be greener this Christmas.
Does it really matter?
Research has found that just 1kg of wrapping paper produces 3.5kg of CO2. When you multiply that by the whopping amount of Christmas wrapping paper we use each year (that’s 227,000 tonnes of it), it’s clear the damage it’s doing to our delicate environment.
By recycling your wrapping paper, you’re helping to reduce the need for production of new material and, therefore, reducing the excessive CO2 emissions produced each year.
Can I recycle tissue paper?
Unfortunately, many local authorities will not accept tissue paper for recycling, even though it can technically be recycled.
This is because the paper will often already be made by recycled materials and will have very low quality, short fibres - making it unsuitable for paper production. Many local authorities will not have the means to recycle the paper into a good quality product.
Don’t worry, you have another option! Tissue paper is accepted at most compost facilities or could even be composted at home, meaning you can still have an eco-friendly Christmas and reduce unnecessary waste.
Can I recycle Christmas cards?
Yes, the vast majority of Christmas cards can be recycled. The only cards that you can’t recycle are cards covered with foil or glitter. These will be easy to spot, so simply remove them from the pile and throw the rest in the recycling bin.
Again, it’s easy to control the environmental impact that your cards will have. As well as choosing plain cardboard cards, it’s also easy to buy cards made from sustainable resources or that help support different charities. There are many different ways for your money to go further at Christmas.
What packaging can be recycled?
Whether you have kids that’ll be unboxing piles of toys on Christmas day or you’ve eaten all that festive chocolate a little too quickly, the amount of packaging you have lying around come Boxing Day adds up fast. Not all of it can be recycled, but recycling what you can will make a big difference.
As a general rule, you’ll need to check what your local authority will and won’t allow to be recycled. With that caveat in mind, we’ve made a handy table to give you some further guidelines.
Not widely recycled
‘Hard’ plastics (recycling codes 1, 2 and often 5)
‘Soft’ plastics (recycling codes 3 and 4) - includes shrink wrap and other thin films.
Paper products (including tissue paper)
Ribbons, bows and strings
Metal sweet and biscuit tins
On top of that, it’s been suggested that £42 million of unwanted Christmas presents are sent to landfill every year. Why not donate or re-gift those items, instead of contributing to the excessive amount of waste thrown away over the festive period.
Can I recycle Christmas crackers?
Christmas crackers can be recycled along with any other cardboard products as long as they’re not foil-coated or glittery. Otherwise, they’re normal cardboard items that can be taken from your recycle bin just like Christmas cards and non-foiled wrapping paper.
Can I recycle advent calendars?
The majority of normal advent calendars can be recycled as long as they don’t have any items left inside (which we’d be surprised if they did!).
Standard calendars consist of cardboard and, often, an inner plastic tray. All of this is widely collected and recycled throughout the UK. If your calendar is made of different materials, you’ll have to check before you recycle.
Can I recycle aerosol cans?
So you got one too many cans of deodorant in toiletry bundles from Grandma or those slightly awkward work Secret Santas...can they be recycled?
In the UK, aerosol cans tend to be made from either steel or aluminium, which are both recyclable materials. That means all aerosol cans can be recycled as long as they’re completely empty. Which means if you have a brand new one you don’t want, you’ll have to spray it all out before you throw it away.
In fact, most toiletry packaging can be recycled, including shampoo and shower gel bottles.
How do I dispose of old batteries?
The dreaded ‘batteries not included’ phrase will pop up again and again over Christmas, especially if you have children! While you may be putting lots of new batteries in different products, heavy use by an enthusiastic toddler or the discovery of duds can lead to a quick build-up of batteries that need to be thrown out.
A study found that, over Christmas, Brits will use 189 million batteries - the majority of which will be thrown into the bin.
To reduce the amount of waste from old batteries, you’ll need to take the majority of batteries to a collection point at a local supermarket or tip as they’re treated as ‘hazardous waste’ in the UK. If you end up with a build up over Christmas, set aside a pot to store them in until you have time to take them for recycling.
Don’t forget to recycle after your Christmas party
Finally, have you ever considered the impact your work Christmas party might have on the environment?
While it should be common knowledge that glass bottles can be recycled, you may be surprised to know that around 13,350 tonnes of glass from bottled drinks gets thrown away into general waste over December and January each year.
Each tonne of recycled glass saves around 246kg of CO2 being produced and released into the atmosphere, so it’s worth your while spending those extra few minutes recycling after your work Christmas party!
We hope this guide has opened your eyes to some of the surprising statistics around waste over the festive period and will help you to have a more sustainable, eco-friendly Christmas this year. If you’re looking for information about our opening times and operations over the festive period, you can find them here.