Can Christmas Cards Be Recycled?

3 December 2020

The short answer: yes.
But there are some added elements on your Christmas cards that won’t be recyclable, so read on find out exactly what you can and can’t put in your recycling bin.

WRAP helps individuals, businesses and local authorities to reduce waste and recycle more, making better use of resources and helping to tackle climate change. Recycle Now is the national recycling campaign for England, supported and funded by Government, managed by WRAP and used locally by over 90% of English authorities.

Recycle Now says that:

“Most cards are paper based and can be recycled, along with their envelopes, either in your household recycling collection, at local recycling points such as household waste recycling centres, or at collection banks in supermarket car parks and the like.” (1)

That’s good news! But we also need to be wary of the following:

“Any embellishments such as ribbons or glitter cannot be recycled so should be removed first by simply tearing off that section. Batteries should also be removed from musical cards and disposed of at battery recycling points.” (1)

So as long as you tear off any embellishments like ribbons, and any sections covered in glitter, you can put your Christmas cards in your recycling bin. The reason we need to tear of glittery parts of cards and not just easily removable gems, ribbons, or badges, is because glitter damages recycling machinery. (2)

Recycling symbol on green background

You’ll also probably receive some Christmas cards with gorgeous foil details; but can we recycle cards with foil on them? The answer is YES! A card with foiling can be recycled provided the foil covers no more than 25% of the card. Bearing in mind a card has four sides (the front, the two inside pages, and the back), the card would need two of these four pages to be entirely covered in foil to be unrecyclable, and that’s pretty unlikely. The Greeting Card Association (GCA) says that Christmas cards with foil "can be put either in recycling bins or at depots... During recycling the cards are pulped, the foil is separated by floating off and then dried and sent to incineration.” (2)
If this has spiked your interest, you can read The Foil Printing Co. article to find out more about the different kinds of foil processes involved in Christmas cards here. (3)

the art file christmas cards

We’ve been through almost every finish we can think of now, but the GCA does stipulate that whilst recycling experts WRAP and Recycle Now don’t mention plastic gloss laminate cards, the GCA themselves advise that these cards cannot be recycled. (2) 

There is something that makes this whole process easier. Lots of greeting card designers will use this ‘recycle me’ logo if the card can be recycled, which looks like this:

recycle me symbol

So, if you see this logo, you can rest assured that your card is totally recyclable. However, there may also be a caveat, saying something like this: 'Please remove any glitter, batteries or badges and dispose of these items with your non recyclable waste' – if this is the case, then simply follow those instructions and remove all non-recyclable elements of the card before recycling. This caveat could also include ‘laminated areas’, ‘glittered areas’, or ‘attachments’. (4) 

WRAPPING PAPER

Once you’ve confidently recycled your Christmas cards, you may now look to the huge bag of wrapping paper in your front room. So… can you recycle wrapping paper? This one is dependent on a few things too.

Recycle Now says:

Some councils will accept wrapping paper in their household recycling collection scheme but others will not as wrapping paper is not accepted by some recycled paper mills, so please check with them first.” (1)

You can find out using their helpful tool here. (5)

If it turns out that you can recycle wrapping paper in your area, there are still some types that can’t be recycled at all. Recycle Now suggests the ‘scrunch test’: “crumple a piece of wrapping paper in your hand – if it unfolds when you open your hand, it can’t be recycled. Paper that stays scrunched up in a ball is safe to put in the recycling.” Additionally, you must remove any cellotape and extras like ribbons or bows before you recycle your wrapping paper. These embellishments can’t be recycled, only the wrapping paper itself can. (6;7)

For more Christmas recycling tips, visit Recycle Now’s page here. (8)

the art file christmas gift bags and wrap, sapphire & snow design

 

THE ART FILE

The Art File has made it even easier for you to recycle this Christmas by reducing the single-use plastic across out entire Christmas Collection, and ensuring the packaging we do use is recyclable.  This redesign consists of offering single Christmas cards unwrapped, removing acetate from over two thirds of our boxed products, and ensuring any acetate we do use is made from 70% recycled material and is simultaneously fully recyclable. You can take a look at a hand-picked selection of our 2020 Christmas Collection here.

The Art File Christmas 2020 Collection

 

SOURCES

1 www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/greetings-cards-1

www.gca.cards/greeting-cards-and-the-environment-into-a-greener-future

https://thefoilprintingco.com/uk/blog/post/is-foil-printing-recyclable

https://partners.wrap.org.uk/assets/11157

5 www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling?rlw-initial-path=places/search/all

6 www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/wrapping-paper-1

7 www.recyclenow.com/news/2019-10-23-plan-less-wasteful-christmas

8 www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/christmas-decorations-and-packaging