02.12.2019 | Recycling tips

Can you recycle Christmas cards and wrapping paper?

recycling christmas cards and wrapping paper

The answer to this should be simple: yes.

However, the waters have been muddied by reports that glittery cards, ‘metallic’ paper, and sticky tape make the recycling process grind to a halt, meaning that tonnes of otherwise recyclable paper ends up in landfill due to contamination.

This absolutely shouldn’t be the case.

While some local authorities appear to be lagging behind the times when it comes to collecting ‘difficult’ items for recycling, 98% of councils in the UK accept all forms of card and can deal with most inconveniences.

Here, we take a closer look at which Christmas packaging items should be in your recycling bins by Boxing Day and which items should be either discarded or reused.


While it’s true that glitter and the glue which holds it in place can be somewhat of a nuisance to deal with, the modern technology at paper mills is more than a match for pretty much any substances which are attached to cards or packaging.

The sticky glitter itself can’t be recycled and will have to be disposed of, but that’s no reason to throw perfectly good card or wrapping paper into the general rubbish bin, especially when glitter typically makes up less than 1% of the overall product.

recycling christmas cards and wrapping paper

Tissue paper

Christmas and New Year is by far the busiest time of year for paper recycling companies, and is something the industry as a whole is thoroughly prepared for.

While we do receive huge amount of paper and card to process over the festive period, the lowest grade materials, such as the tissue paper used for packaging, are still a relatively small amount of the overall total.

Although the fibres used in tissue paper would be difficult to transform into new resources on their own, when they’re mixed in with other higher quality products, they benefit from being ‘diluted’ in the massive post-Christmas stream of paper.

That said, due to its flimsiness and short fibres, tissue paper is a really useful addition to compost.

recycling christmas cards and wrapping paper

Plastic wrapping paper

This is one area where paper mills really struggle. It can’t currently be recycled, although bales of paper which contain it won’t be rejected; the plastic will simply be extracted during the early stages of the reclamation process and dealt with by other means.

We’d always suggest using non-plastic wrapping paper in the first place, but if you do receive a gift inside it, you can use the crinkly material to wrap future presents or make use of it in other crafty ways.

recycling christmas cards and wrapping paper

Cardboard packaging

This one should be a no-brainer. Cardboard recycling is a speciality of ours, and we divert 300 tonnes of it away from landfill each and every month at our Material Recovery Plants in Manchester and Preston.

In fact, that’s enough cardboard to cover the whole of the North West!

We’d prefer it if any tape or plastic ties were removed first, but it wouldn’t stop us from putting your cardboard to good use even if they weren’t.
Metallic Wrapping Paper

As in Ghostbusters, you don’t normally want to cross the streams, and while metallic wrapping paper does indeed contain a mix of paper and aluminium, the useful paper fibres can be extracted with the metallic detritus being sifted out and collected.

It’s certainly not an ideal recyclate, but we’d rather process it than have reams of it sent to landfill.

As a side issue, there is a misnomer that tin foil can’t be recycled, but as long as it isn’t contaminated with anything more testing than a few crumbs of food, it’s just another routine aluminium product such as drinks cans or pie trays which can be given a new lease of life.
Sticky Tape

This is another item which is isn’t currently recyclable, and while it can be a little awkward to remove and deal with, reports of it clogging up the recycling process are massively exaggerated.

We could write a whole article about how to reuse adhesive tape, so before throwing it in the bin, we can vouch for its usefulness as a makeshift lint roller to get rid of any stray pet hairs on your clothes!

Ribbons and bows

One gigantic myth doing the rounds over the festive period is that decorative ribbons and bows can’t be recycled. This (mostly) isn’t true at all.

Any which are made from natural fibres such as silk or cotton are pretty standard recycling materials; the confusion comes from man-made fabrics.

Most ribbons and bows are made from a type of polyester derived from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the petroleum-based polymer that single use plastic bottles are normally made from. Indeed, more PET goes into synthetic fibres than plastic bottles.

While polyester isn’t a product that can be recycled an infinite amount of times in a closed loop system, such as glass, ribbons and bows can still be worked with and transformed into plastic pellets, which in turn have hundreds of useful applications.

Fresh Start Waste are the North West’s leading independent waste collection and recycling company, and if your business needs any help with its refuse over the festive period, then contact us.

Fresh Start Waste truck, forest carbon

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