Over Christmas, we typically recycle more as we generate around 30% more waste than usual. But are we recycling everything?

From Christmas trees to cards and wrapping paper, here’s what you can and can’t recycle over Christmas.

Christmas trees

If you still opt for the real deal when it comes to Christmas trees, they can be recycled and turned into chippings for parks. You can find drop off points locally or, if chopped up into manageable pieces, you can recycle them via kerbside garden waste schemes. Alternatively, you can take them to your tip (household waste recycling centre).

Or, if you have the outside space and your tree has survived the central heating, you can try replanting your tree and using it again next year!

Check with your local borough or district council about how you can recycle your Christmas tree.

Christmas cards

Cards and their envelopes can be recycled. However, ribbons, glitter and other little add ons – like battery-run cards that sing – cannot be recycled. If possible please remove these bits from the cards so the paper bit can still go in the recycling. It all counts.

Can’t bear to throw out all your cards? You can re-purpose them next year as gift tags, Christmas tree ornaments and gift boxes. Check out more nifty ideas to reuse Christmas cards.

Wrapping paper

When it comes to wrapping paper, the general rule is that if you can scrunch it, you can recycle it. Just remove any sticky tape and decorations beforehand, including ribbons and bows. Foil or glitter-decorated paper cannot be recycled.

You could also use left-over wrapping paper to upcycle old containers and boxes, or make New Years’ Eve confetti! Here’s more inspiration for reusing your old wrapping paper.

Foil food packaging

We don’t know about you but here at Your East Sussex we are planning on getting through about 75 mince pies each. So it’s a good thing those foil cases they come in are recyclable. If they come in a plastic tray please recycle that too.

Lots of Christmas food now comes in foil packaging and everything from drinks cans, pie cases, kitchen foil and turkey trays can be recycled. Just make sure no food is left on the packaging.


One of the best things about Christmas is the food. Some would even argue that the left overs from Christmas Day dinner are better the second time around. But what can you do once you’ve eaten all you can? Adding vegetable peelings to your compost heap is a great way to keep waste from going to disposal. If you live in an area covered by Lewes District Council there is currently a kerbside scheme that collects food waste. We also provide great value garden compost bins.

Live in a flat or don’t have time to garden? Learn how to compost without a garden.

Want to waste less food this year? Check out how to reduce food waste this Christmas.

Advent calendars

Advent calendars are recyclable if the materials are separated, such as the cardboard, foil and plastic. This is also an effective way to make sure you haven’t missed any chocolate.


Candles that come in jars can be recycled once all remaining wax is removed. You can melt the remaining wax out, just be sure to put it in the bin and not down the sink.

Christmas lights

You can now recycle your old and broken small electricals from home if you live in the Rother, Wealden or Hastings area. Everything with a plug, battery or cable can now be recycled. Simply place your old items into a standard-size carrier bag, and place on top of either your waste or recycling bin on collection day. Please make sure to remove batteries where possible and place these in a separate bag.

Old Christmas lights can’t be recycled from the kerb side if you live in the Lewes or Eastbourne area, but can be taken to your local household waste recycling site where they will be recycled. Find your nearest site.

You can check that you’re recycling all the plastics from your home here.


We’re all likely to get through a fair few bottles of wine, beer and maybe even champagne this Christmas. These can be recycled with the rest of your recycling after a quick rinse.

What can’t be recycled:


Glass baubles are unfortunately not recyclable as they are usually made from types of plastic not widely collected yet. Not to mention that they are usually decorated with glitter – and glitter and recycling do not mix.


Tinsel cannot be recycled. If your tinsel has finally lost its sparkle or has been attacked by the cat one too many times please dispose of it in your rubbish bin.

Bin bags

Avoid the temptation to put a bin bag full of wrapping paper in your recycling bin as it could prevent its contents from being recycled altogether!

Unwanted gifts

Apparently nearly half of our gifts will be unwanted this Christmas. If you do get an unwanted gift, you could swap it, donate it to charity, re-gift it, sell it, or, if it’s appropriate, return it. All these options are better than it going to disposal!


Article updated December 2023.