It’s very nearly Christmas (again) and that means a couple of things: 1. You’re probably on your way to eating your weight’s worth in festive cooking, yay (at least, I know I am) and 2. There’s about to be a whole lot of rubbish in many people’s homes.
Now, I know it sort of takes away from the thrill of the silly season fun, but considering the impact our consumerist behaviours have on the planet, I figured it would be pretty important to take a moment to chat about trash.
Wrapping paper; boxes; plastic plates and cutlery; disposable cups; the odd broken ornament… all of these things pile up around the holidays and many of us do not know the right way to dispose of them.
So, here’s a quick guide you can use this Christmas and going forward.
Cards and wrapping paper:
In most cases, these babies are pretty simple. As Planet Ark suggests, you can toss items made from paper into your kerbside recycling bin – no dramas.
Where this gets tricky, however, is when your paper products feature decorative elements like tinsel and foil. If you find yourself with cards or wrapping paper made of these, note that you cannot recycle them. Planet Ark suggests trying to reuse them or turn them into decorative items for next year.
As a general rule, storing gift bags or wrapping paper and reusing them the following year is a pretty solid approach as it’s more sustainable and means you’re saving your cash, too.
Cellophane is another confusing one because it comes in two forms. As CHOICE reports, plastic-based cellophane can be recycled using the REDcycle program (take a look where you can do that here). CHOICE writes that if you can tear your cellophane, it’s made from cellulose and can be tossed in the compost as it’s biodegradable.
Can you recycle those Christmas empties?
If you find yourself with a collection of bottles and cans at the end of your festive bash, there are a few ways to approach it.
Planet Ark writes that plastic and aluminium bottles or cans under 1L are eligible for container deposit schemes (CDS). Drop them off to a designated site and you’ll receive a small refund. Details on that here.
Most bottles and cans are eligible for regular recycling, also but you should check with your local council about specifics.
Plastic dining ware:
Sustainability Victoria has shared that recycling plastic plates, cups and cutlery is a tricky business and often can’t be done.
They have stated that these items “can’t be recycled easily at our recycling facilities, even when they are made from recyclable plastic. These items are wrong shape or are too light to be sorted correctly by recycling machines, which are designed to separate larger items like bottles and tubs.”
For that reason, it’s best to opt for reusable options. It’s also worth pointing out that dirty tissues and serviettes cannot be recycled, so maybe consider a reusable option there, too.
Should you recycle Christmas decorations?
Planet Ark suggests you opt for edible decorations that don’t leave behind waste. Failing that, wooden decorations are another great option.
But if you do have standard decorations that need to be disposed of, you’re probably not going to be able to recycle them. Check with your local recycling services to be sure, but as a general rule, these go in the trash. Christmas lights, as CHOICE reports, should be considered e-waste, which can be recycled through specific services. Details here.
If you want to continue your Christmas recycling reading, check out our explainer on properly disposing of batteries here.