Recycling Christmas Waste and Unwanted Gifts

by KathleenDuffy

Presents have been ripped open, boxes discarded and mountains of food scraped into the bin. Christmas waste can be a guilty shock. Sensible recycling can restore your angel within!

Being organised seems to be the key to recycling all our Christmas rubbish. Instead of dumping all the leftover wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, trees etc. outside for the bin men to take away to landfill, it's possible to sort it all out into useful recycling material.

It might seem like a lot of work, but it's very satisfying to know that the evidence of our over-indulgence has actually gone to a good cause - Saving the Planet! (Well, every little helps!)

How to Recycle Christmas Cards

It's a scream!
Charity Christmas Card

Charity Christmas Card from Amazon UK

I hate throwing old greetings cards out!  They can be so useful.  

Christmas Cards can be saved for children to use for craft projects. The pictures can be cut out and used for scrap-booking, the blank pages for notes, or the whole cards can be made into beautiful Victorian boxes, ready to hold next-year’s gifts.

Click here for a fabulous website which shows you how to do just that!

Alternatively, it is possible to send amazing computer-generated e-cards for Christmas, complete with animation and music. People who are environmentally conscious will appreciate this form of greeting.

However, do use a reputable site such as an art gallery or museum because disreputable hackers can use e-cards to spread computer bugs in order to gain access to your personal details.

How to Recycle Glass and Plastic Items

Glass drinks bottles and plastic containers can be taken to the nearest recycling bank or left outside in the appropriate bags or boxes for the local council to collect. Hopefully your council offers this service - if not, ask them why not!

If plastic items are thrown into the normal waste bin they will go to landfill where they can't be broken down.  

How to Recycle Christmas Packaging

Think carefully about packaging of Christmas gifts. Metallic-type papers won’t recycle easily, plastic bubble wrap is hard to break down and could be substituted by layers of newspaper or shredded paper for the wrapping of delicate objects.

It's  possible to buy a simple shredding machine to make your own shredded paper. (This item is also handy for shredding private documents and bank receipts.)  Shredded paper can be put into the compost bin - although some newspaper inks might be toxic.

Place plastic or metallic wrapping papers in the appropriate bags or boxes for the local council to collect - hopefully.

How to Recycle Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Hopefully you won't have any unwanted presents!  (Actually, I just love these sweaters!)

But if you do - don't throw away that unwanted gift or hide it in the drawer. After a decent interval, take it to a charity shop or place it on the Freecycle Group website, which is devoted to keeping unwanted items out of landfill. They match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them.  This is based in the UK, but there is probably a similar group in your area. 

Another solution is to sell the item on e-bay, donating the money to your chosen charity. E-bay has a facility for this option.

How to Recycle Leftover Food

First rule - which will be broken....try not to cook too much food. (Did I really just say that?)  

Before throwing away leftover food, have a look on the Love Food Hate Waste website for delicious ways to use those leftover bits and pieces.

This might be a good time to start a compost bin if you have a garden or allotment. Put any organic waste in there to break down for use on the garden.

How to Recycle the Christmas Tree

In the UK most local councils who have a garden waste collection will take away the Christmas tree once it has been cut down to a reasonable size.  This could be difficult for some people though...including me!

Alternatively, there are recycling centres which will take your tree. If this is not convenient, check to see if the local council has a designated site nearby which will take the tree. This could be a recreation ground, a community garden, or park where you can drop off your tree for a bulk collection by the Council. They will shred down the tree and use the pieces to make paths on allotments or local parks.

You could always buy a fake Christmas tree that can be stored away each year.  Some of these modern fake  trees are really gorgeous.  

Give a Gift Experience for Christmas

As an alternative to gift-wrapped presents, consider giving a Gift Experience – a ticket which entitles the holder to a day out to enjoy a personal experience that would mean a lot to them, i.e. a day at the races, at a health spa, canoeing, a hotel break or afternoon tea. The list is endless, and more importantly such a gift only requires a paper ticket and minimal packaging. Theatre and concert tickets as well as gift vouchers also save on packaging.


With a little thought we can all have a Merry Green Christmas.

Updated: 11/25/2013, KathleenDuffy
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Mira on 11/26/2013

That's pretty amazing.

frankbeswick on 11/26/2013

I have a shredder which I use to prepare paper strips for the compost bin. You can also use paper strips as oyster mushroom substrate. When this is exhausted, having been transformed by the mushroom mycelium, it can become animal fodder.

Mira on 11/26/2013

So paper is good in the compost bin. Perhaps we should all be taught how to make compost, even those of us living in cities. There should be a special place in the garbage disposal area for that. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I hate to see how much junk we throw out, all mixed together. I've read they actually separate glass and metal, and stuff like that, but I still wonder where it all goes.

frankbeswick on 11/26/2013

Paper and cardboard are an important ingredient in a compost bin, as they add carbon to balance the nitrogenous matter in green waste.

As for waste food, I hardly waste any, as I save the scraps and have them for lunch the next day, and the day after if necessary.

KathleenDuffy on 11/26/2013

Thank you! Yes, I do the same! Even with wrapping paper, I'll sneakily retrieve it - fold it up and put it in the cupboard! :)

AbbyFitz on 11/25/2013

These are some great ideas. I usually tell my family to open boxes and gift bags carefully because I save them for next year's presents.

KathleenDuffy on 11/25/2013

Hi Mira - Thanks very much! I would like one of those 'experiences' myself! :)

Mira on 11/25/2013

This is a great article!! I love your suggestions -- and I agree about "giving a gift experience"!

KathleenDuffy on 11/25/2013

ologsinquito - thank you for your comment. My family only buys for the children now. Yes, I love those glasses too! :)

ologsinquito on 11/25/2013

It's good not to consume more than we need. I love those hillbilly highball glasses. That a good way to recycle Mason jars.

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