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Spread Christmas cheer sustainably: 3 ways to recycle festive items

By Guest Writer | 22 December 2023 | Expert Advice, Feature, Sustainability & the environment

xmas recycling

Decorating the Christmas tree, wrapping gifts, and sending out greeting cards are some of the most cherished Christmas traditions, but after the festivities, how do you dispose of the excess?

Gabriella Peace, marketing comms manager of UK Greetings, offers her take on how you can give your Christmas items a second life by recycling or reusing them…

1.    Gift wrapping paper: reuse, recycle and repurpose

What’s a gift without wrapping paper? It adds sparkle to the festive season and builds up excitement for the gifts within. And the great news is, most wrapping paper is recyclable, so you can still enjoy beautifully wrapped goods and remain sustainable!

First and foremost, you can reuse your paper from last year’s gifts as long as it’s in good condition. You can also shred it into tiny pieces and use it as protective packaging around gifts. Alternatively, boost your cleaning inventory by repurposing your wrapping paper as a cleaning cloth for your windows and mirrors.

It’s important that your paper passes the recycling test if you’re taking it to the recycling depot. To find out if it’s suitable for recycling, make sure the paper stays in a ball shape when your scrunch it. Shiny metallic and glittery wrapping paper is usually not suitable for that. Also, make sure that all tape, ribbons and other decorative elements are removed.

christmas recycling santa

2.    Christmas cards: turn them into gift tags, decorations & more

Christmas cards are at the heart of the festive holidays. It’s expected that each person in the UK will send and receive 17 Christmas cards each year, with a whopping 150 million cards being delivered by the Royal Mail during the Christmas period.

We send heartfelt sentiments of love to family who are close or miles apart and friends new and old. Festive greeting cards are special, so it’s great to see people repurposing their cards. Many choose to keep them if they have sentimental value, or in more recent times, recycle them to make way for new ones to adorn a fireplace.

Recycling Christmas cards is a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy. Make gift tags for next year’s presents by cutting your old cards into triangles or rectangles. You can also make them into Christmas tree decorations, gift boxes, badges or decorative matchboxes. Cut them into tall thin strips and you’ll have festive bookmarks, or consider heartfelt DIY Christmas gifts that both your loved ones and the planet will be grateful for.

christmas bauble

3.    Christmas trees: make pine-scented potpourri or add to your compost heap

The Christmas tree – the centrepiece of the festivities – guards the coveted presents and brings about the Christmas spirit. Sadly, when January comes around, we’re prompted to let go of our Christmas decorations. But our Christmas tree doesn’t have to go to waste. There are a number of ways that you can breathe life into your used Christmas tree, whether it’s a real or a fake one.

A typical real Christmas tree takes between 10 and 12 years to grow, so why not replant it in your garden and capture the jolly spirit forever? If you don’t have enough space in your garden, you can give it to a local organisation that replants trees in the woods or donate it to your local zoo.

Council-run tips often offer the opportunity to recycle Christmas trees into ground cover for public parks. The Recycle Now website has detailed information about what can be recycled, as well as your local council website.

If you’re in the mood for DIY, use the needles of the tree to make pine-scented potpourri, compost and stuffing for cushions.

Fake Christmas trees can be reused as many times as you want to. But if you want to give your Christmas celebration a fresh tree, you can donate your old one to a charity, a school or a care home.

Christmas is the time to spread love and kindness not only to our loved ones but to the whole world. This year, why not include the environment on your Christmas list and gift it a little love by recycling your festive staples?