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Holiday Recycling - The Dos and Don'ts

Cartoon drawing of recycle box filled with Christmas wrapping paper

In honor of America Recycles Day, which falls on November 15th each year, here's a list of the items you

should and should not recycle this holiday season.

What's Different about Holiday Recycling?

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the US sees a 25% increase in the volume of recycled goods, or about 1,000 pounds of extra waste per household, according to Jeremy Walters, Sustainability ambassador for Republic Services, a leader in waste disposal and removal services in America. Think food and beverage containers, gift wrapping, lights, and decorations, and you can see why there is such an increase.

"The good news, though, is that about 80% of it can actually be reused, re-purposed, or recycled," says Walters.

Why is it so important to separate your Recyclables?

It isn't just during the holidays that you should be careful about what you put in your recycle bin. One small piece of errant garbage can cause more harm than you think.

Food and beverage containers that still have liquid or food residue in them can ruin good recyclables, while lights and tinsel can get wrapped around the sorting machinery and cause equipment failure or harm to employees.

Follow this list to recycle responsibly:

List of holiday items that can be recycled including cardboard and paper boxes, plain wrapping paper, 100% paper gift bags, plain holiday cards and envelopes, rinsed out and dry metal cans, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, hard plastic containers or jugs, and boxes from cooking mixes

Recycle Tips to remember when you aren't sure


If you can poke your finger through the plastic, or it is malleable, don't recycle it. This is the stuff that can clog up the machinery.

Food containers

Make sure all containers are clean and dry before putting in the recycle bin.


It is actually less expensive and, for the time being, more ecological for glassmakers to create new glass than to recycle it, so make sure any glass is clearly marked with a recycle symbol. If it isn't, it goes in the trash.

When in doubt, throw it out

It is better to put one or two items in the trash than to contaminate other items in the recycle bin.

Happy Holiday Recycling!


Sources: CNBC, Bob Vila, Good Housekeeping



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