The holiday packages are coming! What can you recycle?

Holiday recycling

The holidays are wonderful, but they also are wasteful. Between the parties, decorations, gifts and everything else – we generate about 1,000 pounds of trash per household from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

It’s natural to get caught up in all the holiday extras - especially the presents. But holiday gift packaging - boxes, wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons and bows - is abundant, and though much of it is made of paper, not all of these items are accepted in curbside recycling. We’ll break it down for you.

Here’s what to do with holiday packaging:

  • Save and reuse ribbons and bows for next year. These items aren’t recyclable due to their size and the materials they’re made of, but reusing them is smart for the environment and your wallet.
  • Ship your holiday packages with crumpled paper, or reuse bubble wrap and foam peanuts from your online purchases. Aside from paper, packaging materials are not recyclable, so get the most use out of them before throwing them away.
  • Think twice when it comes to choosing wrapping paper and gift bags. Standard wrapping paper can be recycled, but anything with glitter or foil belongs in the trash or should be saved for next year. Tip: Use the scrunch test to help you figure out what’s recyclable.

Earth911 estimates that 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper go to landfills each year.

  • Recycle cardboard shipping and paper gift boxes. Toy packaging made of heavy cardboard is only recyclable when the cardboard is separated from any plastic. That includes the window on the box of a doll or action figure – this type of plastic belongs in your trash bin.

And here’s what not to do with packaging:

  • Don’t recycle holiday cards and envelopes with embellishments like glitter and foil. Just remember, the fancier the paper, the less recyclable it is.
  • Don’t recycle packing supplies like foam peanuts, bubble wrap and other plastics. These items should be reused or trashed.
  • Don’t place sticky gift tags with recyclables. Sticky gift tags are not recyclable by themselves, but they are acceptable if already affixed to plain paper envelopes or wrapping paper.
  • Don’t put used gift cards in the recycle bin.  They may be plastic; however, they are too small to be sorted at the recycling center. Return them to the retailer or mail them to a company like EarthWorks Systems, which recycles gift cards.

We created this handy guide to help you sort out the recycling do’s and don’ts of holiday packaging.

Holiday packaging infographic

And our holiday blog post from last year has some other tips worth revisiting. For more articles about recycling, please visit our blog.