Are Christmas Boxes Recyclable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 21, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Cardboard is scattered around like confetti during the festive season. 

More and more people shop for Christmas gifts online, and one of the consequences is a deluge of packaging, in addition to whatever the actual gift is in.

Christmas boxes that are plain and simple cardboard are recyclable. Still, everything else that adorns the box, from shipping labels to ribbons, is a different story. 

The answer as to whether it is recyclable varies depending on what the product is manufactured of.

Recycling is the process of using discarded, previously used materials into a new product. Some materials are recyclable, but not all. 

Type of Cardboard

There are two main types of cardboard for your Christmas boxes.

Corrugated Fiberboard

This type of cardboard is your traditional cardboard box in which your packages are delivered, and a corrugated middle layer characterizes them. This type of cardboard is easily recyclable.


These are your cereal boxes and your paper towel tubes. Gifts may be packaged in this type of cardboard, but it is not generally used for shipping like corrugated cardboard boxes because it is much softer.

How Do I Recycle My Christmas Boxes?

As much as we wish we could toss a box in the recycling bin, it is a tiny bit more complicated than that.

  • Boxes should be flattened and, if very large, cut up with boxcutters.
  • Remove all internal filling and foam.
  • Remove or separate all plastic inserts and other materials from the boxes.
  • Keep the cardboard boxes dry. Christmas boxes that are wet or covered in fatty substances can damage recycling machines.
  • An alternative to dropping off Christmas boxes at the recycling plant is to compost them if appropriate.

Avoid heavily foiled or printed Christmas boxes as these might be less recyclable or unrecyclable.

Can I Reuse My Christmas Boxes

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If you have a Christmas box that you cannot recycle, consider whether it can be reused. Options include:

  • Covering them in fabric or something similar and using them for storage.
  • Make a cat bed.
  • Use them for arts and crafts
  • Build a castle (if the box is inordinately large) for your children.

There are many ideas readily available on the internet.

What Can’t You Recycle at Christmas Time?

There is a lot that you cannot recycle at Christmas time. These include:

  • Ribbon
  • Glittery or foiled wrapping paper
  • Styrofoam packaging
  • Greeting cards that are heavily embellished

What Is Curbside Recycling?

Curbside recycling is when you discard items picked up by waste collection agents at your home, and these are then sorted at a facility. Items suitable for curbside recycling include:

  • Cardboard and paper
  • Glass 
  • Metal
  • Rigid Plastics

NB: Make sure whatever you discard curbside has been rinsed and is dry.

You can recycle other items, but you need to take them to special recycling centers or programs.

How to Recycle Gift and Toy Packaging

Gift and toy packaging consist of several elements, some of which are recyclable.

The cardboard parts are generally recyclable, and if there are rigid plastics, those can be separated for recycling too. 

Wire ties are not recycling friendly and, if possible, should be repurposed around the home.

Shoe boxes are be repurposed into storage boxes or extra Christmas gift boxes. 

Anecdotally, a project in South Africa repurposes shoeboxes filled with personalized gifts for underprivileged children. 

Consider repurposing your Christmas boxes in this way for a worthwhile and local cause close to your heart. 

Read more about the Santa Shoebox Project here for ideas.

Can I Recycle My Christmas Tree?

There is a great debate between using an artificial tree versus using a live one each year. 

The benefit of an artificial tree is that it is used repeatedly year after year, but it will still go to the landfill in the long run because it is not recyclable. 

On the other hand, real trees are (usually) farmed, so when one is cut down, another is planted. 

Real trees are biodegradable, and if you have no further use for the tree, it can be composted or mulched. 

There are various ways in which you can use Christmas trees once the baubles and lights have been packed away.

Many communities offer tree mulching or recycling programs.

Is Christmas Bad for the Environment?

No, Christmas isn’t bad for the environment. 

The crucial takeaway is that we actively consider the gifts that we purchase and their packaging. 

  • Can we reduce the amount of non-recyclable products we generate?
  • Can we reuse any packaging that we cannot recycle?
  • Are we recycling recyclable products?
  • Are we using sustainable and eco-friendly packaging and products?

Do not dump items in the recycling bins and hope that someone else will sort it out.

In Conclusion

Yes, Christmas boxes are thankfully (and largely) recyclable. 

Heading into the festive season, celebrate and be merry but spare a thought for the environment and recycle and reuse wherever you can.

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