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The most wonderful – and wasteful – time of year Posted On 28 December 2020

More rubbish is produced at Christmas than any other time of year. Here’s how to dispose of it responsibly


‘Tis the season of excess: Food, drink … and rubbish.

We diligently recycle throughout the year, but at Christmas the level of waste goes up a notch or two. Or three. That’s 30per cent more than at any other time of the year or, more soberingly, around 300million tonnes to be disposed.

Internet deliveries are shrouded in cardboard, presents themselves are wrapped in acres of garish paper, greetings cards are piled high … and that’s before we get to the potato peelings and all those empty bottles which seem to magically appear.

The good news is that most of it can be recycled. But you will need to check before you blithely chuck everything in the bin.

For example, most cards and envelopes are paper-based and can be deposited in household bins, recycling centres or at banks in supermarket car parks. However, any extras such as ribbons, bows and particularly glitter need to be removed.

However, some local authorities will not accept wrapping paper, not only because of its make-up – it can be dyed, laminated or be so thin it carries few quality fibres – but also due to the embellishments and sticky tape which cause issues at recycled paper mills.

Only non-foil paper will be accepted, and councils recommend consumers conduct the ‘scrunch test’ before disposal – scrunch up the paper and if it doesn’t spring back it is non-foil and can be recycled. If it does, or is glitter decorated, it needs to go in the general waste.

‘Real’ trees are obviously recyclable and can be shredded into chippings to be used in the garden as a mulch or, if picked up by local authorities, spread in local parks and woodlands. Drop-off or collection points are often advertised  but make sure you remove tinsel, decorations, anything glittery, plus pots – and don’t take artificial trees: they are made from a combination of materials so, if in reasonable condition, they might be better off going to a charity shop.

And, sticking with foliage, natural materials on wreaths – such as ivy, mistletoes, fir cones and holly – can be composted as long as they are not covered by excessive glitter and artificial decorations, such as ribbons, plastic flowers, and artificial bases and wire are discarded.

Other decorations, such as glass or plastic baubles need to go in the general waste, along with tinsel, while Christmas tree lights can be recycled at household waste centres – any item with a plug or using batteries is classed as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and cannot be sent to landfill.

Which brings us on to batteries. All those new games and gadgets mean more batteries to deal with when they expire, and although some authorities collect them if they are bagged separately from household rubbish, most supply disposal points at recycling centres.

However, outlets selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (that’s around 350 packs of AA batteries) have to provide battery recycling collection points in store.

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