While the holiday season brings friends and family together for fun, food and gifts, it also brings a lot of waste. As our partners at the Recycling Partnership have noted, research at Stanford University found that, "Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year"—which amounts to 25 million tons of extra garbage! To help you curb your contribution to this added waste, we offer some tips below for recycling your holiday cheer.
WRAPPING AND PACKAGING
(WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT—OR BETTER YET, REUSE!)
- Cardboard Boxes: Reuse or recycle in your usual recycling bin (flatten first)
Wrapping Paper: Plain, paper-based wrapping paper is recyclable & can be put in your recycling bin. If it is laminated, has foil, is shiny or metallic, it is not recyclable (most wrapping paper is NOT recyclable). Consider reusing it for future gifts or other creative projects.
- Tape left on wrapping paper can be recycled—but try to use as little as possible while wrapping
- Consider wrapping your gifts with reusable materials, such as newspaper or using reusable gift bags instead
- Ribbons & Bows: Are NOT recyclable, but very reusable!
- Holiday Cards: Only plain paper cards are recyclable. If there is any non-paper decoration on them, such as foil or glitter, they are NOT recyclable.
- Live Christmas Trees: Many communities organize drop-off stations for trees after the holidays, while some even offer curbside pickup (Austin & Dallas, for example). All decorations should be removed first. Check your city or town's website for locations.
- Holiday Lights: Old and broken string lights cannot be put in your recycling bin (they are tanglers!), but several communities accept them at special drop-off locations. (Austin's Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center is one; and the City of Georgetown has set up three special recycling drop-off stations; or mail them to the Christmas Light Source Recycling Program).
- Tissue Paper, Packing Peanuts, and Foam Wrapping Sheets: None of these are recyclable, unfortunately, but they are very reusable!
- Bubble Wrap: Can be recycled ONLY at participating grocery or retail stores that collect plastic film and bags (HEB, Target, Walmart, to name a few). It cannot be put in your recycling bin, as it is a tangler that needs to be handled separately. Some cities (like Austin) have drop-offs for bubble wrap and plastic film.
- Styrofoam packaging: Many communities have drop-off locations for polystyrene and polyethylene ("styrofoam") containers—the kind used in electronics shipping; coolers; etc. Some, like Austin's Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center, even accept foam take-out containers (rinsed of food) and foam wrapping sheets. Check your community's website for locations.
MORE TIPS FROM THE RECYCLING PARTNERSHIPThe Recycling Partnership has a series of holiday blogs that will help you reduce, reuse, and recycle this holiday season! Check them out below:
- Green Holiday Decorating Tips and Tricks
- Your Guide to a Green Holiday Party
- Your Guide to Green Holiday Gifting