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How to Recycle Paper During the Holiday Season

Question: Can I recycle wrapping paper, cards, cards with glitter and other paper items during the holidays?

Answer: Our homes are filled with cards from family and friends, cardboard boxes from shopping online to find the right gift and wrapping materials to make sure it’s a surprise. Many of these items are recycled at paper mills across the country but some are not.

Holiday Paper Recycling

Here’s what we know:

A woman removing a generically wrapped present from a cardboard box.

Cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes that arrive on your doorstep are okay to recycle. Empty the box, break it down flat, keep it dry and clean, then put it 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. 

Greeting cards and envelopes

Greeting cards and envelopes made of paper are usually okay to recycle. If they are covered in glitter or made from photo paper, those cannot be recycled. Don’t worry about removing the stamp from the envelope either.

Gift bags

Paper gift bags can be put in the recycling bin. However, gift bags made with plastic or fabric should be reused because they cannot go in your curbside bin. 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.

Decorative tissue paper

Decorative tissue paper is recyclable if it isn’t glittery or metallic. Be sure to check your local guidelines before placing items in your recycling bin. 

Wrapping paper

Wrapping paper can be recycled in many areas around the U.S. Generally, if you can scrunch it up and it stays in a tight ball, it is paper-based and can be recycled. Other types made from foil or plastic wrap, or if it’s covered in glitter, should be reused. 

Ribbons and bows

Ribbons and bows, while pretty, are not accepted in curbside recycling bins. Try to reuse those too.

What Can You Do?

Always be sure to check the local recycling guidelines in your area. And, when in doubt, throw it out. Wishcycling -- when we put something in the recycling bin hoping it will be recycled -- disrupts the recycling process.

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper