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What will you be recycling this Christmas?

Christmas wrapping paper under tree

The presents have been opened, the crackers pulled and the champagne cork popped. But how will you be tackling the post-Christmas clean-up – by binning everything, or by recycling it?

It’s only one day of the year – but there always seems to a heck of a lot of clearing up to do after Christmas Day has been and gone in my household.

But rather than chuck it all in a bin bag and be done with it (which despite my pertaining to be a keen recycler, does sound tempting after the excess of the last few days), I’ll be making a conscious effort to recycle what I can of the season’s paraphernalia.

Which can be easier said than done. Most of us are on comfortable ground these days when it comes to recycling newspapers, cardboard, glass bottles and so on – though plastics can prove a bit more troublesome – but will your council collect more obscure items like wrapping paper, Christmas cards, decorations, used crackers, or even your Christmas tree?

Recycling all wrapped up?

Take wrapping paper as an example. And, I’m afraid, cue a few caveats. Some wrapping papers can be recycled, but that depends on:

a. Whether your council accepts wrapping paper as part of your doorstep collection or via your local recycling centre; this in itself will only apply if your council collects paper in the first place.

b. What materials have been used to make the paper.

Luxury wrapping paper, for example, often contains extra materials such as foil or glitter, making it more problematic – or simply not possible – to recycle.

Some wrapping paper is of too low a quality for it to be recycled, while other councils won’t take wrapping paper because swathes of it will have sticky tape still attached.

‘Contact your council’…

Recycle Now, the government-backed recycling awareness campaign, has some useful tips on what items can be recycled. Tinsel? No. Christmas tree lights? Yes.

But often the advice can’t go much further than ‘contact your local council’ because of the differences between local services – which over the holiday period isn’t particularly helpful.

This is where a simple leaflet through the door or sticker on the recycling box – or at least an update to the council website – can really help. I did manage to find some handy information via the latter (so it’s biscuit and sweet tins in the pink sack for me, apparently).

But as our recent investigation into recycling services highlighted, council approaches to communicating with residents about recycling services can vary widely. What’s your experience been – and have you managed to dispose of all of your seasonal extras yet?


Merry Christmas to all.
At the risk of sounding like Scrooge (though I do hope not) here are my “recycling” tips:

First of all, remember that Christmas is not over until January 6th – today is only the 3rd day of Christmas, so you have plenty of time to spread out your celebrations and also your recycling.

Secondly, decorations should not need to be disposed of: I am using glass baubles that have been collected over 3 generations’ lifetimes in my family, the oldest dating from an unknown date before 1876 and the newest being ones I bought last year, but if you pack away decorations properly there is no need to keep buying new and still less to keep disposing of them. Likewise my oldest strings of lights date back to the 1930’s and the newest are over 10 years old and with care these last a lifetime (and yes, you can still buy the spare bulbs for ALL of my sets very easily in many high street shops) (Of course, if you still do paper chains, etc., these will need disposing of, but as the intro states, recycling paper is pretty easy).

Thirdly, why have the excess? Of course Christmas is a time for great celebration, whether you are religious or not (personally I happen not to be religious) but if you are disposing of Excess (or the results of it) then surely it’s been a waste of money for you and could have been organised to be less profligate?

However, all that said, most households do end up with a surplus of refuse so how do we get rid of it?

CHristmas Trees: if you have a real tree don’t do what one man near to me does every year and tie it to the bumper of his car then drag it, spraying branches and needles all over, to the nearest woodland and then fly-tip it. Instead if it was rooted and has not obviously died, plant it up in the garden or in a large container and there is a very high chance that if it survived it’s time indoors it will grow on and you can use it again next year.
If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps you live in a flat and have no garden, etc., offer it to any other people you know who have a garden or allotment and see if they’d like to grow it on.
If your tree is obviously dead, or if it was sawn off, then make life easy for yourself and, after removing the decorations and packing them away carefully, cut off al the branches with a pair of secateurs, placing them onto a dust sheet, which you then carry outside, followed by the trunk, thus reducing the number of needles dropped throughout your house. Once outside the branches can be composted in your own garden, or burned on a wood burning stove, in a chiminea, on a bonfire or in a greenhouse heater if you have a solid fuel one. Again if you don’t have a compost heap, or a place to burn, ask friends. If all else fails, many councils now take trees and other greenery for recycling either in the normal garden waste collections or via collection points. (Shredding the tree helps to make it rot faster in your own compost and also gets it into sacks if your council only take garden waste in sacks.)

Wrapping paper is, I agree, a problem due to its composition. You can help to reduce the problem by only buying real paper for your family gifts, but it’s impossible to control what other people give to you. Some primary and nursery schools still gratefully accept used wrapping paper and the picture parts of cards for use in craft and art lessons. You could explore this route for “paper” that can’t be recycled. There are not many other solutions for non-paper wrapping that I can think of, so it will end up in the dustbin. (My mum still has the war time spirit and irons off the sellotape with a warm iron over a sheet of newspaper, then rolls up the paper and uses it in future years for family gifts. It’s very time consuming and I won’t do it because it takes so long, but I admit that this is one of the best methods of recycling ….. if you can persuade the family to open gifts carefully so as not to tear the paper …………………..)

Recycling waste food is fairly easy: anything except meat and fish scraps can be composted in your own compost bin (or if you don’t have one in friends’ compost heaps). Waste meat and fish should ideally be buried in your garden or, if you have a solid fuel burning Aga or a coke boiler (NOT your wood burner in your lounge!!!!!) small scraps of meat and fish and bones can be burned in these appliances. If all else fails, bag them up (so the smell doesn’t attract vermin) and place in the black bin. (Don’t be tempted to flush them down the lavatory – this causes all sorts of issues with drains and have you ever seen what happens at a sewage works??? If not, have a look on line, you will find videos on YouTube. All “lumps” in the sewage (other than the ones that are supposed to go down the lavatory and which “dissolve” in water”) are sieved out and placed into skips and then sent to landfill.)

Lastly, the cartons and packages that items came fro the shops in are usually the type of plastic that can be recycled or cardboard, which can be recycled, so a small amount of thought and a little effort should see these disposed of quite easily unless you have a particularly backward council refuse service (as, I admit, we do here in Sheffield), but even then there should be “bring banks” at a supermarket not far away where you can deposit such rubbish.

My final tip, which I know will make people howl with horror, but maybe in the current financial climate the howlers should pause a moment and consider it, is to refuse to buy over-priced but shoddy quality items as gifts, and likewise refuse to buy the dreadful “stocking fillers” which, let’s be honest, you probably hate and most likely give away (or throw away) by new year. Perhaps a step towards the old days (not all that long ago – 1970’s & 80’s to my knowledge) when you would usually get one, large, quality, gift from immediate family, and perhaps 2 or 3 smaller items, again usually of higher quality than today’s “stocking fillers” is in order? This creates a huge reduction in packaging, wrapping and waste goods when things don’t last.

Phew! What a long post I’ve written! I hope the moderators don’t delete it after all that!!!!

Enjoy the remaining 9 days of Christmas everyone!

My council impressed me again this Christmas – they left information about Christmas recycling hooked to our bins a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised by how much they will take – things like biscuit tins can apparently be recycled and you could order an extra box if you wanted to leave out more bottles than usual (am pleased to say we didn’t need to do this!) We spent ages going through all our wrapping, keeping the bigger bits to reuse and folding all the paper and packaging up so it could be taken.

Sophie Gilbert says:
29 December 2010

Merry remaining Christmas days to all as well!

I’ll recycle what my council allows me to (not enough yet, progress is slow), no more, no less than normal.