Sustainable living

A guide to what you can and can’t recycle this Christmas.

Is Christmas wrapping paper recyclable? What should I do with my old Christmas tree? Our waste expert shares tips on tidying up after the festive season.


The Christmas season can bring lots of happiness – and waste. Local households create and throw out close to 400 tonnes of extra waste at Christmas.

City of Sydney recycling programs officer Katherine O’Sullivan has provided her tips on what can and can’t be recycled, and how to help us keep things out of landfill.

If you're planning your festive season, view our guide on how to have a sustainable Christmas.

Gift wrapping

Carefully unwrap your gifts. You can save the paper and reuse it for future Christmas or birthday gifts.

Christmas wrapping paper made from 100% paper can go in your yellow lid bin, even if it has sticky tape attached.

Metallic wrapping paper or paper with glitter or foil detail can’t be recycled. If you receive Christmas gifts wrapped in these, pop them in your red lid bin.

Natural Christmas trees

Break small trees up into pieces and put them in your green lid bin along with your garden clippings.

If you don’t have a green lid bin and regularly have garden waste, you can order a free bin and have it collected each fortnight.

"We mulch trees placed in the green lid bins," Katherine said.

Trees that are too big to fit in the green lid bin can be placed beside the bin for collection.

However you dispose of your tree, remove all decorations and don’t wrap it in plastic.

Plastic Christmas trees

They may be reusable, but plastic Christmas trees are often made of materials that can’t be recycled.

Old or broken trees are likely to end up in landfill and won’t decompose.

If your unwanted plastic Christmas tree is in good condition, you might like to give it a new home via Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, Trading Post, eBay or Freecycle.

We'll accept Christmas trees in our free weekly pick-up service but hold on to it until you have other bulky items to put out.

Fairy lights, LEDs and other electronics

Electronics, including Christmas lights, contain toxic materials and don’t belong in the bin. If you’ve scored some new gadgets and need to get rid of your old ones, you have a few options.

If the old gadgets are working, donate or sell them. If not, City of Sydney residents can:

We recycle around 95% of the raw materials we recover from your old Christmas lights and electronics.


Sales of batteries spike during the festive season. But once you’re done with them, batteries can be a huge environmental hazard.

Always try to use rechargeable batteries, but even these need to be disposed of carefully.

Batteries must never go in any of your household bins. They can be dangerous when compacted in collection trucks and can even cause truck fires.

Best to drop off your batteries for recycling at our customer service centres and libraries or book a doorstep recycling collection.

Styrofoam or polystrene

It may have a plastic identification code on it, which looks like a recycling symbol, but polystyrene or styrofoam can’t be recycled in your yellow lid bin.

If you’ve received lots of polystyrene with your presents, you can book a doorstep collection or drop it off free at the Ultimo recycling pop-up and at our next Recycle It Saturday event.

Aluminium disposable food and baking trays

Aluminium foil trays can be recycled in your yellow lid bin – just remove any food and oil and scrunch them into a ball shape, like regular foil.

Unwanted gifts

Donate, sell, or re-gift. Sometimes you just don’t want, or need, what’s been given to you. View our guide on how your to sell stuff online fast.

If you’re re-gifting, just remember who gave you the present. You don’t want to be caught returning it to them – now that could be awkward.

Get answers to all your tricky questions about reducing, reusing and recycling: ask a waste expert.

Published 20 November 2023, updated 21 March 2024