You might find yourself in a situation with a little more recycling or waste than usual this festive season but what can we actually recycle?
First a few disclaimers...
1) Of COURSE it is much better to reduce and reuse than recycle, but let's face it we're human and we should try to recycle what waste we do have.
2) Locally we get told household waste is incinerated to get turned into electricity with 59,467 tonnes converted to electricity at the Energy from Waste site, but after researching the process in detail I can't help but feel we shouldn't be justifying incineration (energy from waste) as viable alternative to landfill, as it releases dioxins (and other harmful pollutants) which make it almost as ‘dirty’ as burning coal to make electricity, in terms of carbon emissions.
3) I have based this on our local rules but you might want to double check with your local council for the most up to date info!
So what are the most common waste areas...
If you're lucky and get a few gifts then wrapping!
When it comes to wrapping paper, some councils will accept it in their kerbside recycling collection scheme but wrapping paper is not accepted by some recycled paper mills, so please check with them first.
This is because the materials that go into making some wrapping paper result in it not always being accepted for recycling: wrapping paper is often dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper non recyclable additives such as gold and silver coloured shapes, glitter, plastics etc. Also some wrapping paper is very thin and this means it contains fibres that are too short for recycling. As a simple test: wrapping paper can be recycled if it passes the scrunch test, otherwise it needs to go in general waste.
Also, lots of wrapping paper hits recycling bags and bins with plastic sellotape tape attached to it which makes it very difficult to recycle so before recycling, try to remove any sticky tape and decorations which cannot be recycled.
But what about cards?
Most cards are paper based and along with their envelopes, can be recycled either in your household recycling collection, at local recycling centres or at collection banks in supermarkets and shops car but any embellishments such as ribbons or glitter can't be recycled so should be removed first by simply tearing off that section.
Batteries should also be removed from musical cards and disposed of at battery recycling points. Which brings me neatly on to batteries...
At this time of year we often use more batteries. Some local authorities collect batteries bagged separately with household recycling (ours go in the blue box) but there are also many battery recycling points in shops around town as shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year or approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries, are required to provide battery recycling collection facilities. Our local supermarkets have them at the front of the store but there are now lots more places where you can take your old batteries for recycling.
You can recycle all household batteries including 'button' batteries from watches, battery packs from laptops, mobile phones, power tools and remote control units but car batteries should be recycled at designated collection points.
Of course, you could use rechargeable batteries wherever possible or plug electrical equipment into the mains, such as Christmas tree lights.
Which brings me beautifully to...
CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS!
Any items that have a plug, use batteries, need charging or have a picture of a crossed out wheelie bin on are known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and this includes Christmas lights. These should not be sent to landfill and can be recycled at a household waste recycling centre. Some local authorities will even collect small electricals as part of their recycling collections and may also provide special collection bins at other sites too, e.g. supermarket car parks.
But what about other decorations?
You might not know this but glass baubles are not recyclable; broken glass baubles should be disposed of by wrapping carefully and putting in with general waste. Same goes for wine glasses, glass cookware, e.g. Pyrex, non-food bottles, e.g. perfume, aftershave, nail varnish bottles, face creams ceramics, e.g. crockery, earthenware, vases, mirrors and lightbulbs.
What about plastic decorations?
In general, plastic decorations are usually made from types of plastic not widely collected yet in the UK so should also go in the general waste, along with tinsel, which can't be recycled, and any artificial decorations such as ribbons and plastic flowers from wreaths.
However, natural materials on wreaths, can be composted as long as they are not covered with excessive glitter: just remove the greenery from the base and add to your garden/green waste collection, or drop at your local household waste recycling centre.
Don't forget, unwanted decorations in good condition could be donated to charity shops or other causes locally for re-sale and re-use, along with unwanted artificial trees. Artificial trees are made from a combination of materials which can't be recycled. Remember though 'real' Christmas trees can be recycled.
The advice from our local council is:
"Christmas trees should be set out for recycling on your regularly scheduled collection day. Make sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and stands.
Trees over 6’ must be cut in half
Flocked or fireproofed trees may be placed curbside, however, they will not be recycled."
Often charities will also collect and dispose of your tree for a donation to their cause. Check locally for more details!
It's not just festive waste, we might also have more of the usual suspects to recycle; cardboard, food jars etc.
Especially if you've shopped online, it's likely your items were delivered in boxes or envelopes made from corrugated cardboard. This is widely recycled by local authorities, just remember to remove any plastic or polystyrene inserts and excess sticky tape from cardboard boxes before recycling.
When it comes to jars and bottles empty properly and rinse as leftover liquid can contaminate other recyclables which may mean they aren't recycled and also put lids and caps back on, which reduces the chance of them getting lost during the sorting process as they can be recycled separately.
And lastly foil: whether it's mince pie cases, tin foil or chocolate wrappers there's a lot of aluminium foil around over Christmas.
Although foil can be recycled, it needs to be clean and the size and shape of a tennis ball to get picked up and sorted by the machinery. If it's too small, flat or dirty it simply won't get recycled and will end up in landfill or incinerated. If you do have small bits (even teeny weeny bits like these coin wrappers or milk bottle tops) you can add them to your foil ball or pop them in an empty drinks can and recycle when the can is full.
Hopefully this knowledge will help you head into 2022 a little bit greener without spoiling your festivities!