The huge mistakes you've made with your Christmas recycling

Glittery wrapping paper means your festive recycling may be doing more harm than good

Christmas rubbish

Of all the festive traditions, surely everyone's least favourite is the hours spent sorting the recycling. After the frenzy of present opening, there's all the hassle of separating the gift tags and ribbons from the paper, and ensuring each piece of packaging is in the right recycling bin. So it comes as a particularly horrible blow to learn that all your efforts may have been for nothing.

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The Recycle Now campaign warned yesterday that cards and wrapping paper containing glitter or with a shiny metallic finish cannot be recycled. Likewise, glittery gift tags and cards should go in with the general waste rather than the recycling. The problem is that it causes problems for the recycling machines, and can contaminate recycled paper.

It means that councils will pick it up with your recycling, and put it straight back into landfill. In the worst cases, the glitter will have got into the rest of the paper in the load, so all of the paper will be rejected.

If you receive presents in glittery paper, then the advice is to reuse it rather than recycle it.

It's frustrating for people who doubtless wouldn't have bought sparkly paper in the first place if they'd have known - and certainly wouldn't have devoted a significant proportion of the morning to clearing and sorting the rubbish.

However, it's not the only mistake we're likely to have made with recycling over the festive period. There are six other common mistakes.

1. Leaving the sticky tape on
If you try to recycle the paper from a parcel plastered in thick brown tape, it risks damaging the machinery, so it will be rejected on site. Fortunately, small amounts of tape can be sieved out of your recycling, so there's no need to peel off every inch of tape.

2. Assuming brown paper is paper
This should actually be recycled with your card instead, because it causes brown flecks in new paper, which means whole loads of paper can be rejected.

3. Getting frustrated with toy packaging
It's stressful enough having to take children's toys out of fiddly packaging while children look excitedly over your shoulder. When finally every wire tie is undone, and you've tracked down a teeny tiny screwdriver to remove the inexplicable screws in the box, you then have to break up the packaging into its component parts - throwing away any wire ties, and separating the plastic from the cardboard. There are plenty of parents who lose their patience long before the whole process is complete.

4. Recycling paper napkins
Paper napkins may seem a no-brainer: after-all, they are made from paper. However, they will have small amounts of food and fat on them. The fibres cannot be separated from the oils during the recycling process, so the whole batch may be rejected.

5. Taking the lids off wine bottles
You may think you're being helpful by taking metal lids off glass bottles and putting them in with the metal. However, this is a different type of metal from the recyclable stuff, and can make it harder to recycle the cans. If you leave it on the bottles it's actually easier to separate - and at the same time prevents the wine contaminating any paper in the recycling.

6. Trying to recycle household glass
There's always the risk of a breakage or two over Christmas, but broken household glass shouldn't be chucked in with the recycling. These types of glass don't melt at the same temperature as bottles and jars and if they enter the glass recycling process, it can result in new containers being rejected.