Top 7 Christmas recycling tips

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Christmas is a time when we generate as much as 25% more waste than normal. Recycling as much as possible obviously helps the environment but it is important to use recycling facilities correctly. Here are our seven top tips for recycling at Christmas.

Understand the three-arrow triangle

The symbol of three arrows formed into a triangle is frequently assumed to mean that the item is recyclable but, in fact, it simply indicates from what type of plastic it is made. The resin code shows what plastics are in the item, but in most places only number one and two plastics can be recycled. It is worth checking your local authority’s plastic waste recycling guidelines to clarify what can be recycled in your area. Items made from more than one type of plastic or from plastic and other materials that cannot easily be separated should not be recycled except by passing them onto someone else if they are in working order.


Cardboard boxes can be easily recycled but at this time of year, you may find that the cardboard recycling bins are overflowing. Rather than throwing cardboard boxes out with the rubbish, break them down flat and store them until they can be recycled. It is unnecessary to remove all the tape from boxes before recycling.


Used paper cups and plates that are soiled cannot be recycled and neither can the majority of plastic food ware since it is often made from low-grade plastics. Some plastic cups can be recycled but you need to check local guidelines to find out whether the plastic recycling facilities accept the specific type of plastic. Paper towels have fibres that are too loose to be recycled and paper napkins are also unsuitable. Paper items can be composted if you have access to composting facilities; otherwise, they need to be treated as waste so it is preferable to use reusable tableware when possible.

Bottles and jars

These containers should be emptied thoroughly before recycling but they do not need to be washed and rinsed clean because this can be wasteful in terms of the environment.


If you are planning a Christmas party, why not supply recycling bins around the house for your guests to use? They are more likely to recycle items in-situ than to trek to the kitchen to dispose of a bottle or can.

Plastic bags

There are far fewer plastic bags now in circulation since most people use their own reusable shopping bags, but if you do need to dispose of them they should not be placed in the plastic waste recycling facility. Plastic bags can clog up a recycling system and cause it to be shut down while the equipment is cleared. If you cannot reuse your plastic bag, many stores will take them back to avoid adding them to landfill.

Wrapping paper

Most gift wrap cannot be recycled, especially the shiny or laminated types so it is best to avoid wrapping your presents in this. Good alternatives are reusable gift bags, natural paper bags or even newspaper. Some companies also manufacture recyclable wrapping paper.

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