Can you recycle Christmas decorations?

After unwrapping presents and polishing off any leftovers, the Christmas holidays often leave us with more rubbish to get rid of than usual. It means our recycling bins are overflowing too, including plenty of decorations.

However, it’s also common for the wrong things to end up in them. This makes recyclers’ jobs both more complicated and costly.

Want to avoid making a mistake? Here’s our guide to doing the right thing.

Can you recycle Christmas trees?

Real Christmas trees are easily recycled and often turned into wood chippings. Some local authorities have special collections or organise drop-off points, so it’s worth checking if yours does.

If not, take your old tree to your nearest household waste recycling centre. Of course, remember to remove tinsel and decorations – and any pots or stands – first.

Recycling artificial Christmas trees isn’t possible yet. However, if yours is still in good shape, don’t throw it away. Instead, offer it for sale, or donate it to your local charity shop.

Read much more about the subject in our in-depth Christmas tree recycling post.


What about old Christmas lights - are they recyclable?

Christmas lights, or fairy lights, are the most frequently replaced decoration. We throw away approximately 500 tonnes of lights each year, yet they are recyclable at household waste recycling centres.

Some councils take small electrical items as part of their kerbside collections. They may even provide special bins at other sites, too, like a supermarket car park.

Any items that have a plug, use batteries, need charging, or show a picture of a crossed-out wheelie bin, are Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and can’t go to landfill.


And Christmas tree decorations - what can I do with those?

While tinsel, baubles and most tree ornaments aren’t recyclable, they are reusable if you take care of them.

Store them carefully to protect them from breaking.

Glass baubles are not recyclable. You should dispose of broken ones by wrapping and putting them in with general waste. Often covered in glitter, this rules plastic baubles out, too, because of glitter’s impact on the recycling process.

If you decide that you want to replace your Christmas decorations, consider asking family, friends or work colleagues if they’d like them before throwing them out.

Alternatively, you can donate items in optimum condition to a charity shop.

christmas tree decorations

What types of wrapping paper are recyclable?

It might appear pretty, but each year the UK has a huge pile of wrapping paper to dispose of on December 25. The average household will get through four rolls according to GWP Group.

Because it is often laminated with plastic, foil or other non-plastic material, not all of it is recyclable. It is often covered in sticky tape too, which is another no-no. Many councils won’t accept bins containing the latter because it can clog recycling machinery and contaminate the finished product. You should therefore put it in the regular waste bin.

Simple, brown wrapping paper is a good alternative to standard gift wrap; although it is inexpensive, it can look stylish if well wrapped. Meanwhile, some manufacturers sell an eco-friendly alternative that is fully recyclable – it is often expensive, but is a step in the right direction for the industry’s sustainability.

Cardboard tags are recyclable, but, again, only if there isn’t any foil.


The pandemic means more cardboard waste in 2020/21

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, and restrictions imposed by the Government on retail outlets in the run-up to Christmas, there will be more boxed deliveries than ever this year. If you have space, save some for future use, and for the others, break them down and ensure they get recycled.

Of course, remember to remove any tape from them.

Most Christmas cards are paper-based and are easily recyclable, along with their envelopes, either in your household recycling collection or nearest household waste recycling centre. However, any embellishments, such as ribbons, cannot be recycled so should be removed first.

For more on the subject, read our wrapping paper and Christmas card recycling post.


Have a question for us?

Here at Fresh Start, we take seriously our responsibility to the environment. It’s never far from our thoughts, and forms a central part of the company’s ethos.

Our commitment is total when it comes to minimising the amount of waste sent to landfill, and we constantly review our working practices to find ways that we can improve.

To see more about Fresh Start’s waste collection, waste management, and recycling services click here or contact us

Head Office contact details

Head Office

Scott House
114 Higher Green Lane
Astley, Manchester
M29 7JB

Operation & Recycling centres

Swinton Office

Unit 4,
Hilton Square
Bolton Road
M27 4DB


0808 178 1966