Biffa's Christmas Recycling Guide - Biffa

Biffa's Christmas Recycling Guide

21 Dec 2022
3 mins
Circular Economy

Christmas recycling: DO the ‘scrunch test’ - but DON’T put batteries in the bin!

When it comes to Christmas recycling, it’s not always easy to know what to do with common festive waste such as wrapping paper, greetings cards, polystyrene, bubble wrap and food scraps.

UK waste and recycling firm Biffa sees a 40 per cent increase in the amount of waste it handles over Christmas and New Year, so choosing the right bin for your rubbish means it can be recycled back into new products like plastic bottles or, in the case of most non-recyclable waste, transformed into electricity.

For food waste, climate action charity WRAP, says the amount of poultry thrown away by UK homes every 12 months could make 800 million Boxing Day curries.

Enough potatoes are binned each year to make roasties for Christmas Day for the whole country for 48 years. And the number of carrots thrown away every year by UK homes could feed Santa’s nine reindeers a carrot a day, for nearly 500,000 years.

Biffa packaging expert Artur Bezerra said: “There’s so many different types of waste and packaging, it’s easy to be confused about what to do, especially at this time of year.

“Trying to reduce the amount of packaging you buy in the first place is always the preferred option, followed by re-using items such as boxes, bottles and bags as much as possible. Recycling also reduces the need for raw materials, so choosing the right bin is crucial.

“Putting easy-to-recycle items like plastic bottles, cardboard, tin cans and glass jars in the general waste means none of it will get recycled, while putting non-recyclable waste in the recycling bin can contaminate the good stuff, potentially preventing the whole lorry load from being recycled.”

In the list below, Artur cuts through the festive confusion with his top tips for a greener Christmas:

  1. Wrapping paper: Do the ‘scrunch test’! Screw it up and if it stays in a ball, it can be recycled, but if it unfolds it’s probably laminated which makes it hard to recycle, so must be placed in general waste. Please also remove sticky tape, gift tags and ribbons.
  2. Christmas cards and crackers: Paper cards and crackers can be recycled but please remove any plastic, glitter, foil, batteries or electronics first.
  3. Food waste: If your local council provides a food waste collection, then all uneaten food and plate scrapings can go in. Liquid shouldn’t be put in as it can leak and cause spillages.
  4. Aluminium trays and foil: Can be recycled but please rinse them first to remove any food residue. Scrunch them into a ball as it’s easier to recycle. Leave aluminium screw top lids on jars and wine bottles.
  5. Polystyrene: A type of plastic which is not commonly recycled and should therefore be placed in the general waste. For large amounts, consider taking it to your local recycling centre if it is accepted there.
  6. Bubble wrap/plastic bags: Plastic bags and other flexible plastics are not widely collected at the kerbside but can be recycled at some larger supermarkets.
  7. Batteries: Should never be put in the bin as they can cause fires if crushed or damaged. Instead check with your local council to see if there are special instructions to put them out for collection such as in a clear plastic bag. Alternatively, some larger supermarkets and electronic equipment stores have special battery bins.
  8. Christmas trees: Real trees can be shredded into chippings for parks or woodlands. Remember to remove all tinsel and decorations and any pots or stands. Artificial trees are made from a mix of materials and so cannot be recycled. However, they may be accepted by charity shops for re-sale and re-use.
  9. Fairy lights: Christmas lights are classed as small electrical items and shouldn’t be placed in your bin. Some councils collect small electricals and may also provide special collection bins at other sites too, such as supermarket car parks.