Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
2:34 PM 26th December 2021

Experts Guide To What You Can And Can’t Recycle This Season

Specialist metals & plastics supplier, metals4U, surveyed 2,000 UK adults on recycling and found that just over half (52%) say that recycling is very important to them, with more than a third (35%) saying local councils should be doing more1.

Over the pandemic, nearly one in five (18%) said their recycling bins weren’t collected enough, shedding light on some of the issues households may face this Christmas as wastage increases for the average family.

Local authorities often dictate what you can recycle at home, but as a rule of thumb; paper, cards and some metals such as aluminium and steel cans can all be recycled. Glass can be recycled in many locations, although some councils ask for it in separate bins, whilst others require it to be taken to bottle banks.

Over the Christmas period, Brits have around 30% more waste at Christmas than they do regularly throughout the year, so it's important to check whether what you’re throwing away can actually be recycled. Here is metals4U’s advice on what you can and can’t recycle over the festive period.

Paul McFadyen, Managing Director at metals4U said:
“Environmental conversations will continue to be a focus over the coming years, but during the festive period we should all play our part in reducing our carbon footprint, no matter how big or small, we can all contribute.

“We hope our top tips will help people better understand what they can and can’t recycle this season and work together to make Christmas more sustainable with these small changes.”

What can’t I recycle?

These are the items you may need to dispose of after Christmas, but which cannot be recycled - but make sure to check all labels on items individually.

Metallic, foil, and heavily laminated wrapping paper

"Christmas wrapping paper often 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. In fact this year, Somerset Council has banned wrapping paper in any household recycling bin as it is usually not recyclable and they could end up contaminating the rest of the recycling bin. We advise you check the outer packaging of the wrapping paper, as this usually tells you if it is recyclable or not." says Paul

Glittery Christmas cards

"Anything with glitter on it cannot be recycled and should go in the general waste bin. A lot of Christmas cards and tags will feature glitter, so it’s worth checking this to decipher which bin they should go in. Many supermarkets offer a free Christmas card recycling facility after the festive season, so it is worth keeping a look out for facilities in your local area." says Paul

Ribbons & Bows

"Most ribbons and bows are made from a type of plastic that is unfortunately not yet recyclable. When you are gathering up any rubbish from the present unwrapping it is worth making two piles. One with all the recyclable items, such as plain wrapping paper and cardboard, and another for those items which need to go in the bin." says Paul

Bubble Wrap

"Bubble wrap is made with a special plastic film, and plastic films are known as contaminants to the recycling system. This is because soft LDPEs like bubble wrap can clog the machines that process plastic recycling—posing a threat to both recyclers and their equipment. Make sure to add any bubble wrap to your general waste." says Paul

Fairy lights

If you have any broken or unwanted fairy lights, then they should not go into your general waste. They usually contain aluminium metal wiring and should be taken to a recycling centre as they are classed as electrical equipment, therefore we would advise not putting them in your general household recycling just in case.

Tinsel and broken baubles

Both tinsel and broken baubles cannot be recycled and should be put in your general waste bin.

Plastic packaging

"A lot of plastic packaging, from both presents or food, is non-recyclable, so it’s worth checking the recycling symbols on the packaging before deciding which bin it should go in. Some plastic wrapping is recyclable with carrier bags in larger supermarkets, so read the packaging to see if you can help reduce waste by returning food packaging to your local store for recycling. It’s also worth checking your local council website to see what they do and don’t recycle." says Paul

What can I recycle?

These are the items that you can generally recycle after Christmas from metals and plastic's expert, Paul McFadyen.

Aluminium foil and cooking trays

"The tinfoil you use to roast your turkey, keep your potatoes warm and cover your leftovers is made from aluminium, a widely recyclable item, that many people usually throw in their general waste. Roasting tins are also recyclable, but make sure to wash off any food residue on them as usually they can't be recycled if they are left on. if you really want to be super sustainable, you can even wash your tinfoil with warm soapy water and use it again." says Paul


"If the base is made from metal wirings, such as aluminium or any sort of wood then you can add them to the recycling. 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, especially for those with fresh living plants on them, so they will eventually die. If there are any lights attached to them, make sure to unwind them and if you can take them to a recycling centre where they can handle the electrical contents." says Paul.

Plain wrapping paper

"Glossy and plain wrapping paper can be recycled if it passes the scrunch test; the UK recycling program, Recycle Now, suggests that one way to check whether your wrapping paper can be recycled is by scrunching it up. If it stays scrunched up in a ball, then it’s generally good to recycle. If not, then it isn’t recyclable. Don’t forget to remove any sticky tape and none recyclable tags and bows first." says Paul

Cardboard boxes without wax

"This might seem like a given but there are a few things to consider on your box before you throw it away. Cardboard boxes, after you’ve removed the tape, and staples and other packaging which might be attached can be recycled. Be careful though, as some glossy or waxed boxes have a special plastic film over them which makes them unrecyclable, so be sure to look out for a signal or wording which says it can be recycled" says Paul

Christmas trees

"Real Christmas trees can be turned into wood chippings, with local councils usually advertising pick-up dates in early January. Check your council website to see if this is something they offer," says Paul