The common Christmas items you can and can't recycle

From present wrapping to a whole lot of food, a lot of preparation goes into Christmas Day. But when the big day is all said and done, what happens to all the leftover paper, food, lights, and ornaments that we no longer want?

All of the pre-Christmas preparation can come at a pretty hefty price to the environment, with experts saying Australians produce 50 times more waste during the silly season.

From food wastage to a whole lot of wrapping paper — about 150,000 kilometres worth each year — celebrating big with family and friends can have a pretty sizeable impact.

Here are some ways to responsibly recycle once the big day is all done and dusted and the best ways to dispose of the festive things you no longer need.

Bright colored old fashion Christmas bulbs. White background copy space
Hold on to your old Christmas lights until you can recyle them responsibly using an e-waste facility. Source: Getty Images.

Christmas decorations and lights

It’s worth buying decorations that go the distance. This way they can be used year after year without having to throw them away. The little bit of extra money spent will save the plastic from ending up in landfill.

Christmas lights can be recycled, but not by placing them in your home recycle bin, they need to be recycled as e-waste —which is anything that has a plug or battery.

Check with your local council about dedicated e-waste pick-up days or organise a dedicated kerbside collection. Most councils also have specific days where residents can drop off their e-waste products for recycling.

Christmas trees, real and fake

Unfortunately, plastic Christmas trees can not be recycled. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a tree that you know will go the distance and look after it.

Real trees on the other hand can be cut down into small pieces and placed in the green waste bin. Just make sure they have no decorations left on it. Alternatively, used Christmas trees can be picked up as part of a bulk green waste collection.

Young man celebrating Christmas at home and decorating christmas tree. Home is decorated with Christmas ornaments and lights.
Real Christmas trees can be taken away and mulched, plastic tress on the other hand are non-recyclable. Source: Getty Images

It’s also a good idea to check where you purchased your tree as some sellers can provide a collection service once trees have been used.

Christmas wrapping

Not all wrapping paper is easily recycled. Cardboard and 100 percent paper wrapping can be recycled by adding them to your home recycle bin — even if it still has sticky tape on it.

But other wrappings aren't so easy to dispose of.

Cellophane on the other hand can be recycled, just not in your home recycle bin. Previously the best way to dispose of this was to take it to a REDcycle soft plastics bin located at your local supermarket.

However with the scheme's collapse, many Aussies are stashing their plastics until a solution is found.

Christmas wrapping paper
Re-thinking how you wrap presents at Christmas can save a lot of non-recyclable wrappings from land-fill. Source: Getty Images

Glitter, foil or metallic wrapping papers can’t be recycled and will end up in landfill, so it’s a good idea to avoid these if you are opting for a more sustainable Christmas.

Cooking, eating and drinking essentials

All the Christmas lunch foil trays can be popped in the recycle bin just like the usual aluminium foil waste. They should just be thoroughly cleaned first so there is no food left on them.

While clean napkins can be recycled, soiled napkins and paper towels shouldn't be placed in your recycle bin. They can instead be composted or placed in the red-lid bin with general waste.

Recyclable garbage consisting of glass, plastic, metal and paper.
You can recycle cans and glass bottles at home or recycle facilities as long as the glass isn't broken. Source: Getty Images.

While beer bottles, cans, and plastic bottles can be collected and recycled at your local return and earn return points for some extra cash in New South Wales or a bottle collection centre, wine bottles can’t be.

The best way to recycle wine bottles is to place them in an at home recycle bin with the lids removed.

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