Recycling at Christmas 2021
We do love a bit, okay, a lot, of sparkle at Christmas. The glitter-fest starts early in the shops with the shiny decorations piled high on the shelves, drawing us in. These days, decking our halls can be done very easily and cheaply thanks to an ever growing range of Christmas decorations (indoor AND outdoor!) to suit all budgets.
However, whether you favour Santa’s grotto or a more subtle look, the sad truth is that our plastic purchases are causing big problems.
All that glitters is not good
Yes, twinkling tinsel and shiny plastic baubles are pretty, but those tiny little strands and glittery fragments break off. They blow away. They fall into gutters and flow into drains and the sea and become microplastics. They are now in lakes, rivers, and water supplies.
There are an estimated 12 to 21 million tonnes of the most common types of microplastic in the top 200 meters of the Atlantic Ocean, according to the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC).
What happens next? Fish swallow them. Whales, dolphins, and birds eat the fish. The plastics damage the fishes’ internal organs and reduce their ability to breed. Fewer baby fish, fewer sea creatures, less food, and fishermen.
Can we have fun without plastic?
Of course! For thousands of years we decorated the winter festivals without a spot of plastic!
You can buy brilliant hand-crafted decorations, made from felt, recycled paper, papier mâché, glass, recycled saris, embroidered cloth, brass, ceramic, and card, are sold online by charities like Oxfam, Traidcraft, UNICEF UK shop, V&A Museum, British Museum, National Trust and the RAMM in Exeter. By buying these beautiful decorations you save the planet, and support the charities.
Or why not make your own decorations?
- 3D paper stars are easy to make for your tree or to hang from the ceiling
- Rustic wall decoration adds a beautiful natural touch.
- Homemade citrus peel stars are perfect for garlands or tree decorations and will fill your home with the cosy smell of Christmas.
Whatever you opt for, choose natural materials that can be reused and treasured for years to come and always avoid glitter, including biodegradable or “eco” glitter. These alternatives sound better but studies have shown they have a similar effect to conventional glitter and the ecological damage it causes to our rivers and lakes. Anyway, who needs glitter when Christmas has a natural, magical glow of its own?
Once the festive fun is over, here’s how to reuse, recycle or responsibly dispose of any waste you might have:
- Real trees can be shredded into chippings and used in parks or woodland areas. Please remove all tree decorations first.
Find out what to with your real tree here.
- Artificial trees cannot be recycled but they can be reused for many years. If they are in good condition, they can be resold in charity shops. If not, you can take artificial trees to your nearest Recycling Centre.
Christmas lights or fairy lights can be recycled if you can’t fix them. Check out your nearest Repair Café here.
Many local authorities now accept small electricals in the household recycling collection – check here to find out if your local authority collects small electricals. Alternatively, you can take small electricals to your nearest Recycling Centre.
Glass baubles are not recyclable. Broken glass baubles should be wrapped and put in your rubbish bin.
Plastic baubles are not collected, and glitter is especially damaging to the environment. Broken plastic baubles must go in your rubbish bin.
Tinsel is also very damaging. Tie it up tight in a plastic bag and put it in your rubbish bin.
Natural wreaths can be chopped up and composted at home or in your garden waste collection, but NOT if they have glitter on them.
Plastic and artificial flowers, berries, leaves and decorations cannot be recycled. They must be removed and put in your rubbish bin.
Plain greetings cards can be recycled in most household recycling collections and at all Recycling Centres.
Tear off glitter, plastic and ribbons which cannot be recycled. Reuse cards for gift tags where possible.
Plain wrapping paper is accepted in most household recycling collections.
Remove Sellotape, ribbons, bows and string. Metallic and glittery paper is not recyclable and must go in your rubbish bin.