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Christmas Card Recycling

Christmas and Birthday Card Recycling

Recycling cards sent and received for any special occasion is the greenest way to get rid of old birthday and Christmas cards. In the UK we send roughly one billion Christmas cards each year and thousands of birthday cards daily. Combined with other greeting cards, this creates lots of waste.

Understanding what happens to used greetings cards, how card recycling works and its importance can help reduce this waste and ensure as much as possible avoids landfill. Find out what to do with old birthday cards, how to recycle Christmas cards, and everything else you need to know about disposing of greetings cards in this guide.

Recycling cards

  • Who invented greetings cards?

    Greetings cards have a long and storied history in the UK. The first Christmas card on record was sent to James I by a German physician in 1611. However, it wasn’t until 1843 when the first commercial Christmas cards were produced. Then it wasn’t long before birthday cards followed the same trend.

  • What are greetings cards made from and how are they made?

    Manufacturers typically make greeting cards from card stock directly, often from recycled materials themselves. Many cards have a glossy acrylic finish, often combined with a photograph. Soy inks are easier to clean and are becoming more common, but oil-based inks can persist.

    Manufacturers print cards with specific ‘plates’ that they create using lasers to ensure a final uniform design. They print the designs thousands of times over in their special high-end printers. They then leave the final cards to dry for days once they’ve successfully applied the design and any accompanying images.

  • How do you dispose of greeting cards?

    The best method for the disposal of Christmas and birthday cards is to recycle them. You can recycle most greetings cards as paper alongside their envelopes. Generally, recyclable birthday and Christmas cards should have a clear recycling symbol that indicates you can recycle it immediately.

    However, you cannot recycle cards with glitter or glue – you must dispose of these with your general waste. We recommend you try to remove the glitter or glue to the best of your ability – if you can, then this allows you to recycle the card.

  • What happens to old cards after they’re placed in the bin?

    After you recycle your paper and card, they’re sorted into different grades. These are then reprocessed into new cards – provided they’re still of decent quality. Recycled cards are mixed with soap and water to remove the inks printed upon them, which creates slurry that becomes the base for new card products. The water can more easily remove soy ink compared to traditional oil-based ink.

  • Can you recycle Christmas and birthday cards?

    Yes, you can recycle Christmas cards and birthday cards, as they’re mostly made of paper that’s easy to recycle. They’re one of the most recyclable items around the festive season. The only time you can’t recycle Christmas and birthday cards is if they have glitter, foil, and glue on them – unless you can separate the materials.

    Recycling of Christmas cards especially needs encouraging as more than one billion are used in the UK every year. You can also recycle Valentine’s Day cards with romantics across the UK sending more than 25 million cards to love interests each year.

  • Where can you recycle Christmas and birthday cards?

    You can place old birthday cards and used Christmas cards in your recycling bin at home. Businesses can make recycling cards even easier by having a paper recycling bin in the workplace. For those that deal with high volumes of card waste, up to 1100 litre wheelie bins can store lots of greetings cards for recycling.

    You can also take your old cards to a recycling centre near you run by the local council or authority. Here you can dispose of them alongside other paper waste.

  • What are the problems with card waste?

    Waste contamination is a big issue when it comes to recycling cards. Something as simple as a half-drunk paper coffee cup thrown in with card waste can contaminate such recycling. Workers may need to dismiss entire lorry loads of recycling if there are issues, and there’s only so much they can remove by hand with such a heavy workload.

  • What are the alternatives to greeting card waste?

    Only buying recyclable cards that use soy-based ink makes things easier for everyone. The disposable nature of cards means they’ll often be present in our waste. However, you could keep them for the memories they might represent or turn them into decorations for next year. E-cards are also becoming a popular alternative to the conventional greeting card that saves significant amounts of paper.

  • What are some facts about greeting cards?

    A few key facts about greetings cards are that:

    • The greeting card industry as a whole makes nearly £2 billion every year from our purchases.
    • Christmas cards produce 280 million tonnes of carbon on an annual basis.
    • Around 811 million birthday cards are sent in the UK every year.
    • More than 25 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged in the UK annually.

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