Recycling Christmas Cards: 8 Ways To Reuse Or Recycle

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Looking for ideas for recycling and reusing Christmas cards? Here are eight creative ideas to recycle, reuse or upcycle those old cards.

Christmas cards can be a thoughtful way to send festive greetings to family and friends – especially ones we don’t see very often. However, once the festivities come to an end, these cards can easily add to the Christmas waste mountain.

Collectively, in the UK alone, we send millions of Christmas cards each year. Whilst there are no accurate figures on exactly how many cards we send, The Royal Mail says it delivers a whopping 150 million cards in the run-up to Christmas. Add in the cards we don’t send through the post, and that’s a whole lot of cards.

Not every card we give or receive is easily recyclable, so to avoid adding to landfill, it’s incredibly important that we recycle our Christmas cards correctly. The good thing is that it has never been easier to recycle our cards. Whether you are looking to upcycle and reuse them in clever ways, or just recycle them to get made into new cards I’ve got all the details you need – including the types of cards you can’t easily recycle.

8 Ideas For Recycling & Reusing Christmas Cards

Crafting with festive cards, with a blue text box that reads clever ideas for recycling and reusing your old Christmas cards.

From upcycling and reusing your old cards to make new items, to recycling information for all types of Christmas cards and envelopes, here’s all you need to know:

1. Make Into Gift Tags For Next Year

A Christmas card next to a scallop hole punch, scissors and festive decorations.

Your old Christmas cards make for great upcycled gift tags for next Christmas. All you need to do is grab your scissors or a punch and get crafting.

To make things quick and easy, I have this scalloped paper punch that I use to make tags. No faffing about with scissors here! Simply position it on your card and then punch. You’ll then need a standard hole punch to make a hole for your string, before writing your message on the back.

In terms of punch sizes, I’d go big. My punch is the 2-inch size, but I think it would be better if the punch was slightly larger. Who knows, this year might be the year I treat myself!

Depending on how hectic the post-Christmas period is, I’ll either do this before I pop the decorations back up in the loft, or I’ll do this the following December when the decorations are dusted off again. You do what works for you.

Old Christmas cards upcycled into Christmas gift tags.

If you don’t have a punch and don’t want to buy one then you can absolutely still upcycle your old Christmas cards. Simply grab a pair of scissors, and cut out an image from your old cards. It could be a central motif, or if you have small cards, you can just cut off the text section of the card. Job done!

See the above photo or how I’ve tackled mine. I’d love a pair of pinking shears to make mine look more professional – maybe next year!

2. Make Festive Bunting For Next Christmas

Garland made from cards

Another crafty idea is to make festive bunting to decorate your home with next Christmas.

This DIY bunting from Prima (pictured above) is an easy and sustainable way to create stunning decorations from your home from something that would otherwise go to waste.

If you’re looking for something slightly less involved, then I found an easy DIY on Secondhand Tales. The good news is you don’t need to do any sewing. All you need to do is cut your cards into triangles, make two holes, and then string them together with a strand of ribbon. Easy peasy!

3. Make A Festive Wreath

Festive wreath on blue door made from old cards

Chatelaine has a great DIY for turning your old Christmas into this pretty wreath. All you need is about 12 cards and some old cardboard and you’re all set to make this stunning decoration that will keep those festive wishes from your nearest and dearest close to you.

4. Make Christmas Tree Decorations

Christmas tree decorations made from old card

Better Homes & Gardens has a clever tutorial for recycling your old Christmas cards into these pretty tree decorations. While they may look complicated to make, these take just a few simple steps to make.

For more sustainable inspiration, check out these clever DIY cardboard Christmas decorations to make.

5. Make Present Toppers

Upcycled present toppers made from recycling Christmas cards.

If you are looking to sustainably decorate your gifts, then you can recycle your Christmas cards by saving them for next year. You can then follow Brit+Co’s clever tutorials to make these eco-friendly present toppers.

6. Make Your Old Cards Into Shopping Lists Or Memo Pads

Another great way to recycle and reuse your old Christmas cards is to cut them up into cards for shopping lists or notes. Simply tear or cut your card in half and use the back of the picture to make shopping lists or write reminders. I learned this tip from my mum, growing up she always had a stash of old Christmas cards that she would use to write her lists on. Thrifty and sustainable!

7. Make Bookmarks

If you love books and have more than one on the go at a time, you can use your old Christmas cards to make some bookmarks. Just cut a card front into a strip, and pop it into your book.

8. Recycle Them

If all else fails, you can recycle your Christmas cards and envelopes.

Up until a few years ago, many retailers used to offer in-store Christmas card recycling schemes. This included Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Boots. Most stores have now ended these schemes due to the expansion of kerbside recycling schemes. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to recycle these at home now.

Standard Cards

Most Christmas cards are paper-based. This means they can easily be recycled in your own household paper and cardboard recycling bin. This is provided they do not have any glitter, foil or any other non-recyclable embellishments on them.

If you don’t have a kerbside recycling collection, then you can take your old Christmas cards for recycling at local paper and cardboard recycling facilities. You can find these at your local household waste recycling centre, or at many supermarket car parks.

Standard Envelopes

Most Christmas card envelopes are made from paper, so they can easily be recycled in your own household paper and cardboard recycling bin, or at your local paper and cardboard recycling facilities.

For cards that you have received through the post, make sure you collect the stamps on them so that you can donate them to charity.

Many charities accept stamp donations, as they can sell them to generate much-needed funds – with 1 kg of old stamps raising around £20. To donate your old stamps, simply cut the stamp off the envelope, leaving roughly 1cm of envelope bordering the stamp, before posting them to the charity of your choice.

To help you out, here is a handy guide to charities that take used stamp donations.

Cards With Embellishments

Christmas cards with any embellishments, such as ribbons, badges, sequins, bells, or diamantes cannot go straight into your recycling bin. These need a bit of prep work first.

All you need to do is to remove anything that isn’t paper or cardboard before popping it in your recycling bin. If the embellishments aren’t easily removed, you can tear off the front section of the card and pop it in your general waste bin. The back of the card can then go in your recycling bin.

Glitter Cards

Glitter cards can’t be recycled as the glitter is too small to easily extract, and can contaminate recycled paper. Any contamination could see swathes of paper being sent to landfill, which isn’t ideal.

If you have any glittery cards then you can remove the front image, and pop this in your waste bin. Alternatively, you can upcycle it into something else. The non-glittery portion of the card can then be placed in your recycling bin.

Thankfully, many retailers have stopped selling glitter-based greeting cards. This makes it easier to pick up planet-friendly cards that can be recycled. Nonetheless, some retailers still do sell glitter cards. Keep an eagle eye out when you are buying Christmas cards in December 2024 to avoid the glitter. This will make it easier for your loved ones to recycle their Christmas cards after the festive season.

Foil Cards

Christmas cards with foil or metallic sections generally can’t be recycled, unless the back of your card says it can be recycled. If your Christmas card carries no recycling information, assume the card as a whole is not recyclable. However, you can tear off the foil or metallic section, and recycle the non-shiny bits. The shiny bits should go in your bin.

Musical Cards

If you’ve received a musical card and don’t want to keep it for next year, then Recycle Now says that batteries from musical cards should be removed and recycled at battery recycling points. The rest of the card, provided it doesn’t have any glitter, foil or embellishments can then be recycled with paper and card.

Handmade Cards

If you have been given some handmade Christmas cards this year, and want to recycle them, then it depends on what they have been made from.

Cards or paper decorated with ink stamps, felt pens or coloured pencils can be recycled. However, card or paper with crayon or paint on it can’t be recycled. Keep any homemade Christmas cards containing glitter, large blobs of glue, stickers, or foam out of your recycling bin too. Instead, these should go in your general waste bin.

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