Everything you need to know about recycling Christmas cards for a more sustainable finish to the festive season.
A Jolly Festive Exclusive
Stack of Christmas card envelopes with Christmas stamps visible on wooden table.

Whilst Christmas cards may have lost some of their former popularity, according to GWP Group, Royal Mail estimate that they still deliver around 150 million cards during the Christmas period (according to GWP Group).  And that doesn’t include hand delivered cards, and those inside other packages.

It’s still a treat to receive that cute card and personal well wishes.  However, with GWP Group expecting the average Brit to discard (pun intended) around 24 greeting cards after the festivities, we must think carefully about how we dispose of these cards to avoid unnecessary waste.

As the mantra goes: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  So do consider ways to repurpose your old Christmas cards first.  But if you need to dispose of your Christmas cards, here’s the lowdown on how to do so responsibly.

How To Recycle Christmas Cards

Sift through the cards and remove any non-recyclable elements.  Once you’re left with just the plain card pile, add this to a paper/card recycle bin.

As a general rule, if it sparkles, it cannot be recycled. 

So, remove:

  • Foil sections (i.e. sections that look metallic).
  • Sections with glitter
  • Batteries
  • Any other non-recyclable embellishments (like ribbons, or gems)

Can Envelopes Be Recycled?

Envelopes can also be recycled.  Again, watch out for any loose glitter or other non-recyclable items that might be attached.

Can Stamps Be Recycled?

Postage stamps can be recycled.  They can simply be left on the envelopes and added directly to the paper recycling bin.

Stamps can also be sent to several charities where they are sold to raise important funds.  Moral Fibres has a list of the charities currently accepting stamp donations.  

Can Batteries Be Recycled?

Batteries should be removed from cards where they are present and added to a specific battery recycling bin (in many supermarkets as well as local recycling centres).

Be sure to follow your local council guidelines for disposing of batteries.  If thrown directly in the rubbish, they can become damaged and subsequently ignite.  Whilst it sounds overly dramatic, we were surprised to learn that it is a genuine issue with risk of harm to those working at recycling and refuse centres as well as costly damage and disruption to waste services.

Can Photo Christmas Cards Be Recycled?

Unfortunately, photographs and photo paper cannot be recycled so cards made from photo paper should be thrown in the waste bin.  However, many people print photos onto card stock for their greeting cards and, provided there is no foil or glitter, these should be recyclable just like any other cards.

If you received a photo as part of your Christmas card, consider turning it into a Christmas decoration, either to hang on your own tree or to gift back to the card sender.

Where To Recycle Christmas Cards

Once any non-recyclable elements have been removed, the cards can be added to your home recycling bin and collected by the local services in the usual way.  Cards can also be taken to any local paper or card recycling point.

Can Christmas Cards Go In The Recycling Bin?

Yes, provided any non-recyclable elements have been removed, Christmas cards and envelopes can be added directly to your domestic recycling bin in almost all cases.  If you live in England, you can check collection for your postcode at the Recycle Now website.

Recycling Christmas Cards at Supermarkets

As far as we are aware, there are currently no UK nationwide campaigns to collect Christmas cards for recycling.

The Woodland Trust previously collected Christmas cards for recycling through supermarkets but this stopped some years ago.  If you live in the Huddersfield area, you can take old Christmas cards to The Welcome Centre for the Community Cards project.

If you know of any other projects underway to collect Christmas cards to recycle or repurpose, please do get in touch.

What Else Can You Do With Old Christmas Cards?

Before adding cards to the recycling bin, do consider whether you can put them to use in some other way.  Turning your cards into gift tags or next year’s homemade Christmas cards are decades-old ideas – Jo and I both remember doing this as kids, do you too?  Or you can make them into ornaments, Christmas art décor, or simply as scrap card for to-do lists.  There are plenty of crafty ways to repurpose or upcycle old cards and give them a second lease of life.

Do check if your card is plantable!

It’s becoming increasingly popular to send greeting cards made from seed paper that can be planted in the garden once they have been enjoyed in the home.  We love this eco-friendly Christmas card idea!

If you found this guide to recycling Christmas cards helpful, do check out our other ideas to sustainably wind up your Christmas celebrations.  And be sure to explore our suggestions for an eco-conscious festive period.
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