This is Samantha Upham’s best advice – seasonal sustainability lead at packaging firm DS Smith.
Christmas cards: Most people don’t know that not all Christmas cards can be recycled. Cards with decorative glitter are the biggest culprit – as the glitter can cause quality issues in the paper making process, which creates more waste.
Top tip: “The best thing to do with Christmas cards is to avoid buying cards with glitter, plastic or electrical components at all, as these are very tricky to recycle. But if you already have some, don’t worry – try separating the card from the decorative backing and just recycle the part with no glitter. And if you’re wondering what to do with the decorative part of your card, why not put it in your arts and crafts box and create gift labels for next year or use for future crafts projects?”
Packaging tape: Despite what most people think, you don’t need to remove all tape fromcardboard before putting it in the recycling bin.
Top tip: “It’s a big help for recyclers if you remove as much tape as possible from your packaging before you put it in the bin, but there’s no need to worry about getting every last bit off. Packaging tape can be one less thing you need to worry about this year.”
Gift wrapping paper: Just like cards, not all wrapping paper is created equal! Some wrapping papers can include metallisation, holographic foil, and plastics, meaning that it cannot be recycled.
Top tip: “Try scrunching your wrapping paper into a ball before you dispose of it. If it stays scrunched up, it can be recycled, so pop it in your recycling bin. If you’re ever in doubt, you can always check with your local recycling guidelines. Or alternatively, try using traditional brown wrapping paper – it’s a fully recyclable, more sustainable option that also looks great under the tree.”
Christmas ribbons: Ribbons unfortunately cannot be recycled, as they get tangled up during the recycling process.
Top tip: “Ribbons are a beautiful addition to presents – why not keep your ribbons from the gifts you receive or are given in your home and reuse them for another gift in the future?”
Food and drink packaging: What’s Christmas without the food? Cross-contamination can impact what can and can’t be recycled, so it’s important to be mindful of how you dispose of food and drink packaging.
Top tip: “To prevent cross-contamination with food solids and liquids, make sure to rinse out your cans, glass bottles and plastic containers (where accepted) before putting them in the recycling bin. For paper and cardboard, ensure any food residue is scraped off as much as possible and the papers aren’t significantly soaked with grease or oils. Don’t forget to check the recycling label on the packaging to ensure it goes into the correct bin.”
Christmas crackers: Since Christmas crackers are made from cardboard, they can be recycled as long as they are not foil or glittery or plastic coated. You can check this by tearing the paper apart; if it easily tears it can be recycled, but if it doesn’t tear and you see the plastic liner it’s not recyclable. Remember to separate into the correct bin.
Top tip: “For a more sustainable Christmas cracker, why not invest in some reusable crackers? There are plenty of great options available – or if you’re particularly crafty, you could make your own.”
Decorated boxes: We all love opening a gift box when we get one, but they often quickly end up adding to our waste piles.
Top tip: “Reuse is the answer once again. Why not give old boxes a second life before they go to recycling by repurposing them? You could use them to hold new gifts, transform into an arts and crafts project for the kids over the holidays, or even create a new hide out for your cat! Just remember though, once you have completely finished with your box, please recycle it.”
Christmas trees: It’s just not Christmas without a tree. If you opt for a real one, make sure you think about what to do with it once Christmas is over.
Top tip: “Local Councils and other organisations offer a tree recycling service post-Christmas, so have a look online or in your local press to find out where your local drop off point is. Or, if you’ve bought a rooted tree and you have a garden, why not plant it for decorating next year.”
If you run out of space in your recycling bin: It can be very overwhelming when faced with excess packaging in the home over the festive season. If you do run out of space in your recycling bin, resist the temptation to put in the rubbish bin by making use of your local recycling point, as this is a great way to clear out your home and stay sustainable.
Top tip: “Your local recycling point will only be too happy to take your cardboard if you end up with too much in your home. Bring it to your local point, and they’ll dispose of it and don’t forget to ask your neighbour if they have any excess packaging to help them out and save a car trip.”
Unwanted gifts? It happens! Don’t throw it away, either regift to someone else or donate it to charity.
Top tip: “Pre-loved gifts are having a moment, so there is even less reason to throw away any unwanted items. Keep it for someone else’s birthday or future Christmas gift or donate it to Charity so it can be sold on, and your gift will help a good cause and someone else along the way – you can’t get much more sustainable than that.”