How To Recycle Christmas Packaging and Wrapping Paper

How To Recycle Christmas Packaging


Picture the day after Christmas–empty glasses, scraped plates, shredded wrapping paper, and colourful cracker toys cover every surface. It was a celebration to remember, but you’re not looking forward to the cleanup. While you may be tempted to stuff everything in a heavy-duty black bag, there are better ways of clearing the mess.


Christmas generates a lot of extra packaging waste, which your local recyclers would be happy to take off your hands. Here are some common recyclables you’ll find in your post-Christmas cleanup and how to dispose of them sustainably.


Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags


Paper is made from wood fibres that are 100% recyclable. This year, consider collecting all the leftover shredded gift wrap in a separate bag from your everyday rubbish. That way, the paper will stay clean and dry. Once paper gets wet, it starts to break apart and may no longer be suitable for recycling.


You can also recycle paper gift bags and Christmas cards, which are made of lightweight cardboard that fetches a higher price at recycling centres. Most informal recyclers will gladly collect paper waste from your house if you leave it next to your dustbin in a clear plastic bag.


Be sure to separate wrapping paper from non-paper elements–remove Sellotape, staples, ribbons, string, etc. Keep what you can reuse and throw away the rest. Lastly, beware of metallic and glittery papers and bags–they may contain plastic that can’t be recycled with regular paper waste.


Gift Delivery Boxes and Void Filling


Online shopping is the new normal, especially around Christmas. The good news is that the cardboard boxes your gifts arrive in are 100% recyclable! Instead of throwing them away, keep them all together and offer them to a waste picker on bin day. You can do the same with shredded paper void filling and protective package inserts.


Polystyrene is also 100% recyclable, so don’t throw the packaging that came with your new air fryer in the bin! Get in touch with Supreme Mouldings or Liteconcrete to find out where to take polystyrene packaging near you. Most plastics collection points also accept polystyrene. If you were lucky enough to receive a new phone, computer, or home appliance for Christmas, consider recycling the old one if you can’t resell it. You can drop off e-waste at collection points nationwide.


Plastic Toy Packaging


Christmas with children often means lots of plastic packaging on top of the wrapping and ribbons. Toys tend to come in clear boxes with cardboard backing, both of which are usually recyclable. The plastic parts are often made of PET or PVC, which are easy to mould into different shapes. To recycle toy packaging, separate it into two buckets: one for plastic and one for paper. Keeping these materials separate makes streetside recyclers’ jobs easier.


Most plastics should have a resin identification code embossed somewhere on the surface. That’s the little triangle with a number in it that tells you what type of plastic you’re dealing with. Plastics coded with the number 7 contain a blend of different materials that can’t easily be separated and recycled. However, much work has been done to develop systems that can handle multi-layered and ABS plastics. Trust a registered recycler to be able to separate out what is useful and safely dispose of the rest.


Sweet Wrappers and Chocolate Boxes


It wouldn’t be Christmas without sweets, chocolates, and other tasty treats. These edible goodies usually come in mysterious colourful wrappers that most of us aren’t sure how to recycle. The best way to decipher which ones to save from the rubbish bin is to check the plastic identification codes on the packaging. When there is no code, there are a few rules of thumb to follow.


First, you can’t usually recycle shiny wrappers. If the label states the packaging is made of aluminium foil, it may be recyclable, but otherwise, it probably isn’t. Some shiny wrappers (including chip packets) are actually made from metallised plastic, which is not yet widely recycled.


Fortunately, you can recycle all cardboard chocolate and biscuit boxes. Tins and glass jars are also 100% recyclable, not to mention easy to upcycle into handy home storage containers. Remember to rinse all food packaging before putting it in the recycling to prevent contamination.


Christmas Crackers, Plastic Tablecloths, and Serviettes


Table decor makes everything feel more Christmassy, and there’s a big market for festive serviettes, cutlery, and candles during December. If your family lunch involves single-use plastic knives and forks, you can’t put them in the recycling bin after the meal has ended. Instead of throwing them in the dustbin though, wash them and keep them in your kitchen drawers. They could come in handy for future picnics and road trips!


You also can’t recycle serviettes and tissue paper in general, so throw that in the dustbin or toilet instead. For Christmas crackers, separate the paper and plastic elements and recycle them accordingly. Disposable tablecloths are usually made from polypropylene or another flexible plastic that you can recycle, but always check the packaging to make sure!


Where To Recycle Christmas Wrapping Paper and Packaging


While most informal recyclers will gladly accept cardboard and plastic for recycling, there are some types of packaging they may leave behind. For a truly zero-waste Christmas, you can take these materials to a recycling centre yourself.


Clicks, Makro, Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths, and Leroi Merlin host recycling bins at selected stores. Look out for collection boxes at your nearest store, or use our interactive map to find other recycling centres in your area. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us for more information. 

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