What To Do With Old Decorations

December 20, 2017

If someone told you that memories of your Christmas celebrations are set to last for centuries, you’d be quick to dismiss such a claim as poppycock.

But that is exactly what is going to happen, says Planet Ark.

The environment group has warned that Christmas ornaments, artificial trees and strings of lights can cause serious environmental heartache when they become landfill.

They say the discarded decorations will languish in landfill for centuries.

“There probably hasn’t been any specific studies into Christmas decorations and how long they last in landfill, however we know that most of those decorations have materials like plastic and they can last from 450 to 1,000 years in landfill,” Planet Ark recycling programs manager Ryan Collins said.

“There’s some glass in certain Christmas lights [that] can last for about a million years apparently.

“I think you’ll find these days a lot of the decorations are plastic, so it’s basically going to be in the ground for a very long time.”

It’s not just glass and plastics you need to be wary of.

Metal wire in your favourite Christmas lights can last up to 60 years in landfill if it’s copper and brass, and up to 200 years if it’s aluminium.

Knowing what materials can and can’t be recycled is confusing, but there’s a few options you can investigate if you want to keep your Christmas waste to a minimum.

The first thing you need to know is that Christmas lights should never go in your general waste bin.

Mr Collins said most strings of lights needed to be taken apart before they were thrown away.

Some retailers still accept glass bulbs from LED lights but others can’t be recycled.

“The plastic light covers, they most likely will have to go into general waste, and then with cables themselves … some electronic waste recyclers may accept them,” Mr Collins said.

“It’s probably best to check with your council.”

Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website can help you locate businesses willing to accept electronics waste.

Mr Collins said there were plenty of ways to have a trendy festive season without chucking anything away.

“Buying decorations that last longer, that you can reuse from year to year, is definitely a positive step for the environment,” he said.

“It’s also nice to reuse those older decorations; it can be thought of as a family tradition or ritual to remember your unique family history.

“With lights and decorations … if you’re in for changing things up, we suggest borrowing or swapping decorations or lights with friends and family.”

Charities often accept pre-loved Christmas decorations as well but you should call ahead to avoid dumping unwanted goods.

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