Receiving a card filled festive Christmas wishes never fails to bring a bit of cheer into our lives. But what do we do with them after Twelfth Night, when all the decorations come down? On an overburdened planet, the best option is to recycle them. There are different ways that you can do that, and, thankfully, both are easy-peasy.
The UK has had a tradition of recycling Christmas cards for more than a decade, with charitable organizations, trusts, and retailers launching various initiatives, some of which are no longer running. Local councils and waste authorities also publish information that can help you decide how to go about recycling Christmas cards in 2020. We’ve put together a few ideas that may inspire you to put your old cards to good use so can have a more eco-friendly Christmas.
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Look Out For Retailer/Trust Initiatives
More than two decades ago, Marks & Spencer, TK Maxx, and HomeSense joined forces with the Woodland Trust on a Christmas card recycling project that ran for several years. After it came to an end, M&S started its own card recycling initiative, and placed collection bins in its stores. Funds received through recycling those cards were donated to the Woodland Trust. That scheme has also ended, as the retailer now supports the trust through its store card.
At the time of writing, no retailers in the UK had announced projects for recycling Christmas cards in 2020, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Keep a lookout for any such initiatives at your local shops, even if they’re moms-and-pops, as recycling your cards with them could support a worthwhile cause.
Use Council Waste Management Services
Almost every local council’s waste authority encourages residents to recycle their Christmas cards. For example, West London Waste and the New Forest District Council suggested people use their kerbside recycling service.
The Cheltenham Borough Council also recommended kerbside recycling, and then went a step further by also suggesting that residents make use of the recycling banks around town. If the banks are full, excess cards (as well as glass, plastic, and more) can be taken to the council’s recycling centre. Contact your local council or visit its website for information on what you can do with your old cards in your town.
Christmas Card Recycling Tips
Use these tips to recycle your Christmas cards properly:
- Place plain paper greeting cards in the appropriate bag for paper and cardboard kerbside recycling
- Cards with foil, glitter, lights, musical elements, or batteries cannot be recycled as-is
- Remove the parts of the card with foil or glitter, the speaker and processor, the lights, or the battery, and place them with general waste
- You also can place the lithium button cell in the appropriate battery bin at your local recycling centre
Recycle Your Cards At Home
Recycling Christmas cards in 2020 doesn’t need to be limited to council waste services. If you’re feeling crafty this Christmas, you can use a few basic tools (scissors, glue, paint, a stapler, etc.) to give your old cards a new lease on life. Take a look at these fabulous ideas:
Festive Gift Tags
If you have a few old Christmas cards, upcycle them in a way that lets you save money on gift tags. All you need to do is to use a pair of scissors to cut out the main images or motifs on the cards. Write your message on the white back of the cut-out, use a punch to make a hole, and use a piece of ribbon, string, or thread and adhesive tape to attach it to the wrapped gift.
Christmassy Place Cards
Brighten up your Christmas table by turning last year’s cards into festive place cards. Cut out parts of the picture on the card, and then write your guest’s name on the white back of the card. You can further decorate the card with paint, or by punching two holes near the top corners and inserting the ends of a spruce or rosemary twig into them. Use the cards to let your guests know where they’re to sit for lunch or dinner.
A Mini Christmas Tree
Old Christmas cards, a stand such as a paper spike or a kebab stick stuck to a wooden or cardboard base, and scissors are all you need to create a gorgeous mini Christmas tree. Paint the base (and stick, if desired), and then cut round, scalloped shapes from the cards. You can do this easily if you make templates of various sizes. Use a craft knife to cut an X in the centre of each cut-out, before sliding them onto the dry stick. Start with the largest cut-outs, and end with the smallest, and then decorate the tree with bits of ribbon, felt, a star, and anything else that takes your fancy.
Recycle your old Christmas cards in 2020 by turning them into baubles for this year’s tree. You’ll need old cards, a glue stick or a stapler, scissors, wool/yarn, and adhesive tape. Cut circles out of the cards, and then make an equilateral triangle template from a piece of white card. Each corner should touch the edge of the circles you cut. Fold the visible part of the card circles up along the triangle, and then glue or staple the folded circles together by the flaps to create a bauble. Stick the ends of a piece of wool to the inside of the bauble before you seal it, so you can hang it on the tree.
Follow these instructions for more information.
Christmas Card Buying Tips
If you would rather continue sending real cards instead of e-cards, the following tips can help you choose cards that still embrace the idea of a green Christmas and are easier to recycle:
- Purchase cards certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which indicates the paper was produced ethically and sustainably
- Choose cards made with vegetable inks and water-based varnishes
- Buy cards wrapped in paper rather than plastic
- Purchase cards from local card makers
- Choose plantable seed cards
- Make your own cards by recycling motifs from old cards
- Avoid buying cards with foil, glitter, plastic decorations, sequins, lights, or musical elements
With a minimum of effort, you can prevent your old Christmas cards from ending up in a landfill. Make recycling Christmas cards in 2020 your gift to the earth this festive season.