The 12 Days of Christmas: Recycling Edition

December 10, 2020   |   Blog

If you made it on Santa’s nice list this year, you’ve probably got a pile of holiday gifts headed your way. The holidays are an exciting time of year, but all that excitement can come with a lot of unnecessary waste. It’s important to know which holiday items can and cannot be recycled after all the gifts are opened and the celebrations conclude. 

To make things easy, we’ve made a list of 12 common holiday items for you to check out before the holiday rush begins. We may only have 12 days of Christmas, but recycling is something you can do every day to reduce waste and secure your spot on the nice list again next year. 

#1: Wrapping Paper

Most common gift wrapping paper is completely recyclable, as is the cardboard tube inside the roll of paper. There are a few types of gift wrap, however, that cannot be accepted in standard recycling facilities. Any wrapping paper that has velvet, glitter, laminated, or metallic elements cannot be accepted in most curbside recycling programs. 

The BBC created a handy test to determine whether your gift wrap is recyclable: bunch it into a ball and let go. If the paper remains balled up, it’s recyclable. If it begins to expand, it cannot be recycled.

#2 Ribbons and Bows

The tinsel and ribbons added to the top of your gift cannot be recycled. These decorative additions should be removed from the package. Most ribbons, however, can be reused during the next holiday season. If the ribbon reaches the end of its life, it should be placed in the trash. 

Similar to ribbons, bows cannot be recycled. Additionally, the sticky pad used to attach the bow to packages cannot be recycled, either. The adhesive used on the pad is not recyclable and should be left on the bow. Bows can be easily reused, however. With a bit of tape, bows can be reattached to gifts year after year. 

#3 Holiday Dishware

Holiday-themed paper plates, cups, and utensils can be great for quick cleanup after a family gathering, not all of these items can be recycled. Dirty paper plates cannot be recycled. Clear plastic cups made from #1 PET plastic can be recycled, but styrofoam cups cannot be recycled. Polystyrene cups, like red Solo cups, also cannot be recycled in most curbside programs. Plastic forks, spoons, and knives should not be recycled, either. 

#4 Gift Bags

Some gift bags are recyclable and others are not. Gift bags that use the same material as a common paper grocery bag are fully recyclable, but bags that have a plastic coating are not recyclable in most curbside programs. Bags that have ribbon straps, glitter, or metallic components cannot be recycled. 

#5 Christmas Cards

Christmas cards made with plain paper are fully recyclable. The fancier cards, however, are not. Similar to wrapping paper, any cards with glitter, metallic element, or velvet cannot be recycled. 

#6 Boxes

Cardboard boxes are fully recyclable and accepted in most curbside recycling programs. Don’t forget to also recycle the boxes in which your packages were shipped! Just be sure to flatten the boxes before placing them in the bin. 

#7 Eggnog Cartons

Eggnog can come in cartons or plastic jugs. Typically, the plastic jugs are made with #2 HDPE plastic which is fully recyclable and accepted in most curbside programs. Cartons, which are made from layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum, can be recycled in some municipalities, but not others. It is best to check with your municipality before recycling a carton. 

#8 Gift Cards

Gift cards are made of polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC. PVC, which is identified by the number three in the recycling logo, is not recyclable in most curbside recycling programs. 

#9 Cookie Dough Packages

Most common cookie dough tubs are made from PET, which is identified as #1 plastic, that is fully recyclable in most curbside facilities. Cookie dough that comes in plastic wrap is not recyclable, however. The best practice is to check for the recycling symbol and determine if it is a #1 or #2 plastic. Those two types are accepted in most recycling programs. 

#10 Tissue Paper

Tissue paper is not recyclable, but it can be reused. Keeping tissue paper to use next year can save money and reduce waste. 

#11 Champagne Bottles

Whether it is Champagne, wine, or something stronger, glass bottles can be recycled in most curbside programs. If the kids are joining the festivities, aluminum soda cans and plastic bottles are fully recyclable as well.  

#12 Batteries

If one of Santa’s gifts runs out of power, it’s important to properly dispose of batteries. Some batteries are recyclable, but not in standard curbside programs. It is best to check with your municipality before recycling batteries.