Holiday Recycling Done Right

Dec 19, 2018

By Jordan Craig
Manager, Government and Industry Affairs

The holiday season is fun, festive and a time meant for giving. It’s joyous to decorate and make gifts look fancy, but the added touches for allure can cause confusion on what to recycle once the fun has ended.

Our homes are filled with cards from family and friends, cardboard boxes from shopping online to find the right gift and wrapping materials to ensure the surprise is spectacular.  But which of these are recyclable? Here are some tips to help you make the right decision on whether to put these common holiday items in the recycling or the trash bin.

  1. Cardboard boxes

    The cardboard boxes you received on your doorstep from shopping online are designed to be recycled. In 2017, 88.8 percent of all cardboard boxes consumed in the U.S. were recovered for recycling. Remove any non-paper packing materials (like air pillows or foam peanuts), break boxes down flat, keep them dry and clean and place them in the recycling bin. You do not need to remove shipping labels or tape. If your box is dented, beat up, ripped or even a little dirty from the shipping process, it can still be recycled. Just make sure it’s dry and free of any non-paper packaging materials.

  2. Greeting cards and envelopes

    Greeting cards and envelopes made of paper materials can be put in the recycling bin. Cards with glitter, metallic accents or plastic should be placed in the trash. Photo paper greeting cards also cannot be recycled. Don’t worry about removing the stamp from the envelope, the recycling process takes care of that for you.

  3. Paper gift bags

    Plain paper gift bags can be put in the recycling bin. However, gift bags made with plastic, foil-coated paper, fabric or other materials will need to go in the trash can if you can’t reuse them. If your paper gift bag has rope handles, glitter or beads, those things need to be removed before placing the bag in the recycling bin.

  4. Tissue paper

    Tissue wrapping paper can typically be recycled as long as it’s not metallic, glittery or plastic based.

  5. Wrapping paper

    Wrapping paper made from paper that does not have a plastic coating can be recycled in many municipalities.  Foil, cellophane and plastic coated wrapping paper, as well as paper with glitter, cannot be recycled.  A general rule of thumb is that if you scrunch it up and it stays scrunched in a tight ball, it is paper-based and can be recycled. Make sure all bows and ribbons are removed as well.

  6. Ribbons and bows

    Unfortunately, ribbons and bows are not accepted in recycling bins. If you cannot reuse them then you can place them in the trash can.

Remember: when it doubt, throw it out.  “Wishcycling”—the act of putting something in your recycling bin in the hope that someone, somewhere will figure out what to do with it along the way—actually impedes the recycling process. Non-recyclables can jam up recycling machines and contaminate paper, preventing otherwise recyclable paper items from being made into new products.

In 2017, 65.8 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling and 96 percent of the U.S. population has access to community curbside and/or drop-off recycling services, according to the most recent survey of communities. If you have questions about what’s accepted in your local municipality, check out Earth911.com or our website to find your state government link. By recycling right this holiday season, we can ensure that we’re keeping the holiday season merry and environmentally responsible.