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What Festive Rubbish Can Go In Your Guildford Recycling Bin?

Published on: 26 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 29 Dec, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

With household waste typically increasing by around 30 per cent at Christmas, do you know what can and can’t be recycled in your Guildford recycling bin?

We looked at the advice given by the councils for what to do with tinsel and the tree and all the paraphernalia surrounding the Christmas celebrations.

The bewildering range of packaging and products makes it almost impossible to do the right thing easily.

There are even different rules about what is and is not recycled in district and borough councils in Surrey though they are all part of the Surrey Environment Parnership.

In our county last year, we recycled about 55 per cent of our household waste, incinerated 41 per cent and landfilled the remaining 4 per cent (see Surrey Accused Of ‘Complacency’ Over Static Recycling Rates April 2022).

Recycle your real Christmas tree at one of the council’s tree disposal sites from January 15 or in your garden waste collection bins (if you have one). Make sure the lid closes though.

Guildford borough alone produces over 40,000 tonnes of waste annually so the best thing to do must be to use less and re-use it wherever possible.

But if you have to get rid of it, what do you do?

We have tried to make it a little easier by looking at the SCC tool for recycling and other sites to see if we can work out what to do with festive rubbish. Let us know if we’ve got it wrong or if you have a better idea.

So here goes:

Wrapping paper. The UK throws away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year at Christmas in the UK, according to waste management company BIFFA.

Glossy and plain wrapping paper can be recycled if it passes the scrunch test. If it springs back after scrunching in your hands, it can’t be recycled.

Glitter covered and non-paper gift wraps made from foil-based paper go in your general rubbish bin.

Remove any sticky tape and none recyclable tags and bows first.

Foil. Clean foil can be recycled including foil trays. Scrunch foil together to form a ball to help sorting at the reprocessing plant.

But not all foil is aluminium. So give it the scrunch test again. If it bounces back, it is laminated foil. Put this in your general rubbish bin.

Fairy lights. Broken or unwanted fairy lights should not go into your general waste. They usually contain aluminium metal wiring and should be taken to a recycling centre as they are classed as electrical equipment.

Cardboard boxes. After you’ve removed the tape and anything else left in them, cardboard boxes can be recycled. But if it is stained with foodstuffs, grease, paint or dirt, it  cannot be recycled; put it in the rubbish bin.

Christmas trees. Remove all tinsel, lights, decorations, tree stands and plastic bags from real trees before putting in garden waste collection bins (if you have one) or take it to the community recycling centres.

Real Christmas trees can be turned into wood chippings. Guildford’s Christmas tree recycling sites (see here for details) will be open after Christmas until 15 January 2023.

There is no advice on the SCC site for artificial trees that can’t be re-used. I am assuming they would go in the black rubbish bins.

Christmas cards. Plain cards can be recycled. If they have any glitter, foil, plastics or embossing, tear off these sections, as well as any badges and batteries and place the offending parts in your rubbish bin.

Christmas decorations. If they are in a reusable condition or working order, get them down to a charity shop or see if a friend would like them.

There is a huge range of type and material used in the baubles and tinsel which, I assume, is why there is an absence of advice on the SCC site for Christmas decorations that can’t be re-used. I am assuming they would go in the black rubbish bins.

Wreaths. There is no advice on the SCC site so I am guessing that if they don’t have glitter or glue on them and aren’t plastic, they can go into your garden waste bin or to the tip.

Christmas dinner

Food waste. There are a lot of tips on reducing your food waste from planning your food shop to recipes for left overs. But if it can’t be eaten, it goes in the food caddy which is collected every week (see Over Half of Surrey’s Food Waste Is Wasted and It’s Getting Worse Jan 2022).

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Responses to What Festive Rubbish Can Go In Your Guildford Recycling Bin?

  1. Roshan Bailey Reply

    December 31, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Thank you to Hugh Coakley for this article.

    A couple of additional suggestions:
    – Christmas decorations – the first option should be save them to reuse yourselves next year
    – Wreathes – take out natural leaves and berries which can go in your compost or in garden waste if you don’t compost, then give the frame back to the person who made your wreath or to someone else who makes them so they can use them next year.

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