What you can and can’t recycle at Christmas

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Three million tonnes of waste is produced in the UK over the festive season, and whilst over half of Brits say that recycling is very important to them, there is uncertainty around what can and can’t be recycled.

Research carried out by online metals retailer, metals4U, polled 2,000 UK adults on recycling, finding just over half (52%) say that recycling is very important to them, with more than a third (35%) saying local councils should be doing more.

Considering the influx of Christmas waste and the fact there is a 30% increase in the number of bottles and cans being thrown away2, it is crucial people understand what they can recycle to reduce their environmental impact whilst celebrating the festivities.

What you can’t recycle

Wrapping paper – Christmas wrapping paper generally cannot be recycled as it is often laminated with plastic, foil or other non-paper materials. It is also likely to have sticky tape on it which is non-recyclable. Recycle Now, a UK recycling program, suggests that one way to check whether your wrapping paper can be recycled is by scrunching it up, if it stays scrunched then it’s good to recycle, but if not, then it isn’t recyclable.

Glittery Christmas cardsAnything with glitter on it, which means a lot of Christmas cards and gift tags, cannot be recycled and should go in the general waste bin.

Tinsel / broken baubles – These, whether glass or plastic, cannot be recycled in the UK and should be put in your general waste bin.

Plastic packaging – A lot of plastic packaging, from presents or food, is non-recyclable. Make sure you check the recycling symbols on packaging before putting it in and if unsure, check your council website to see what they do recycle. All plastic bottles should be recyclable.

What you can recycle

Cardboard boxes – Data shows that we use around 300,000 tonnes of card packaging every Christmas3, which is enough to cover Big Ben 260,000 times! Making sure you remove the tape and anything in them, this can all be recycled.

Christmas trees – Real Christmas trees can be turned into wood chippings, with local councils advertising pick up dates in early January – take a look at your council website to see if it’s something they offer.

Wreaths – As long as they don’t have glitter or glue on them and aren’t plastic, Christmas wreaths can go into your garden waste bin after the festive period.

Fairy lights – If you have any broken or unwanted fairy lights, they should not go in your general waste, they should be taken to a recycling centre as they are classed as electrical equipment.

To further help people to recycle around Christmas, environmental psychologist, Lee Chambers, provides his three top tips:

  1. With the pandemic, there will be even more boxed deliveries than ever this year. If you have space, save some for your future use, and for the others, break them down and ensure they get recycled.

  2. It might mean more washing up but avoid one-time use cups, plates and serviettes. The single-use items are of low grade, making them not eligible to be recycled, and a little extra time washing up makes a big difference to the amount of waste you’ll generate.

  3. Christmas lights and other small electricals. If your electrical decorations are not seeing in the New Year with you, most household recycling centres have a dedicated area for small electrical recycling. Please don’t put them in the regular collections!

Delving further into the research, when it comes to Brits’ attitudes towards recycling, despite increases in environmental activism amongst younger generations, it is the over 65s that lead the way, with two thirds (67%) of this age group stating that recycling is very important to them. In comparison, only 43% of millennials (25-34-year olds) felt the same way.

Only a quarter (27%) of people say they do recycle and believe they do enough, whilst a similar amount (28%) say that they want to do more.

Paul McFadyen, Managing Director at metals4U, said: “At Christmas time, it’s more important than ever that we all play our part in reducing our carbon footprint, and it’s good to see that the majority of people are on board when it comes to recycling, however there are still many that don’t see it as important.

“By understanding what we can and can’t recycle at Christmas, and working together with local authorities, and government, we can all do our bit to ensure that recycling continues to be effective.”

To read more about how to recycle effectively in the current climate, visit: https://www.metals4u.co.uk/blog/a-handy-guide-to-recycling-during-the-pandemic



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