Take a look around your home today and it will probably come as no surprise to learn that we create 30 percent more waste than usual over the festive season.
We discard around six million Christmas trees, a billion cards and enough wrapping paper to stretch around the globe nine times.
But reducing how much we throw away can be tricky.
And no one even knows where to start with needle-shedding Christmas trees or broken fairy lights.
So, here’s our guide to disposing of your festive waste and getting your home back to normal in the most environmentally friendly way…
“Real” trees with roots intact can be replanted in a pot of compost or in the garden, ready to play a starring role in next year’s festivities – but felled Christmas trees must be recycled.
While pine is clearly biodegradable, if you dump your redundant tree anywhere – even in woodland – you run the risk of being prosecuted for fly-tipping.
If you have a fire pit in your garden, your Christmas tree can be cut into logs, left to season in the log pile for a year, and then chopped into small strips and used for sweet-smelling kindling next winter.
Never try to burn large chunks of pine wood or use pine for an indoor fire, however – its high resin content means it tends to give an exceptionally hot burn and is prone to throwing off dangerous sparks.
Unfortunately, artificial trees – are made from a complex combination of materials – are not recyclable. If you must have an artificial tree, choose a good quality one from which you can get years of use. Some charity shops will accept artificial trees in good condition for resale.
Tip for next year: Cut out the need for tree recycling altogether.
Any items that have a plug, need batteries or charging, or have a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol on them – such as fairy lights – should not be put in your household waste, but recycled.
If you have a lot of broken fairy light strings, you might even be able to make money from them. The insulated copper wire inside the cables and brass connections under the bulbs both have scrap value, so check if your local scrap merchant will take them.
You’ll get more money if you remove the plastic components before you take them in. Take other redundant metal items along with your fairy lights to make your trip worthwhile.
Cards and wrapping
Shiny, glittery cards can’t be recycled, but they can be reused. Simply cut the Christmassy pictures into neat gift tag or bunting shapes (you can find lots of free templates for these online) and use them next year to decorate presents or your home.
Wrapping paper covered in glitter or with a metallic or shiny finish also can’t be recycled – so either throw it out with your regular household rubbish or look for charity collection bins in your local supermarket at the beginning of January.
Although it’s not recyclable, tired tinsel is reusable. Keep your old garlands to use as packing material when you need to send delicate objects in the post.
Because they are made from coated or specialist glass, broken glass baubles and wine glasses can’t be put in your regular recycling – instead, they need to be wrapped carefully in old newspaper and placed in your regular household waste.
Have you been left with a selection of tatty-looking candle scraps? The wax can’t be placed in your recycling collection.
If you must throw it away, toss it in your general household waste – but, before you do, think about reuse. If you have a decorative glass jar that’s covered in wax, you can remove the wax and reuse the jar by placing it in the freezer for a couple of hours. The frozen wax will become brittle and shrink away from the jar sides, making it easy to remove.
Alternatively, you can melt down candle leftovers to make new ones. There are lots of instructions online to help you do this — you just need some new wicks.
Be an eco hero
Been left with a ton of empty gift, post and food packaging?
For example, flatten boxes and plastic bottles to fit more in your recycling bin.
Make sure you empty and wash all food containers before you put them in your recycling.
A build-up of food scraps can quickly contaminate and slow industrial recycling processes.
Separate different materials from each other to give them a better chance of being recycled – remove plastic windows from cardboard boxes, for example, and strip plastic packing tape from paper packaging.