Holiday Clean Up: What's Recyclable?

Holidays have you feeling "trashy?" Find out what common holiday trash items are recyclable with these tips from Domestic CEO.

Amanda Thomas,
December 25, 2013
Episode #091

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Recycling Toy Packaging

Toy packaging is a tricky one. For the most part, the cardboard and hard plastic parts of toy packages are recyclable, but the softer plastic cases and windows are not - but this varies from city to city. This time of year, most municipalities update their waste management web sites to inform residents which type of packaging is able to be recycled, so check out what your city recommends and follow their instructions when you're discarding toy packaging.

Recycling Mailing Boxes

Most cardboard boxes are recyclable, as long as the tape is removed. So collapse those boxes and put them into the recycling bin! Keep an eye out for self-adhesive packaging, which is not recyclable in some areas.

If you have a mailing envelope or box with self-adhesive, you may want to simply remove that area of the package before putting it into your recycling bin. It’s also a good idea to keep a few of the good mailing boxes around your house to use throughout the year. That way, when you have to send a gift to your niece across the country or package up your stuff for a move, you don’t have to buy new boxes and create more waste.

Recycling Holiday Cards

Recycling holiday cards is very similar to recycling wrapping paper. Most cards can be recycled, but if they have any glitter, embossing, or embellishments on them, they cannot be added to the recycle bin. Likewise, any photo cards printed on photo paper are usually not recyclable either.

If you would like to keep the holiday and Christmas cards from going into the trash, try contacting your local churches or preschools. Oftentimes these organizations will do crafts with the kids around holiday time and could use the pretty front pieces of the cards. Just separate off the back side that has the messages, and create a stack of pretty artwork for the kids to choose from when creating homemade ornaments, pictures, and more!

Recycling Packaging Materials

In general, packaging materials are not recyclable. They are often made of petroleum, which means they are also not biodegradable. To keep these items from sitting in our landfills for the next million years, you can recycle them by taking them to your local shipping store.

Just make sure to call and verify that the store will accept the garbage bag of foam peanuts before hauling them down there. You may need to make a couple of calls, but you should be able to easily find a store who will accept and reuse the materials.

Recycling Christmas Trees

Real Christmas trees can be recycled in a number of ways. They can be made into mulch, created into a habitat for wildlife, or donated to local wildlife groups for them to use in their animal shelters. If you don’t have an immediate use for a tree around your property, try contacting a local wildlife group to see if they can direct you to some good options in your area.

If you have a fake Christmas tree that you no longer want, it’s again best to do everything you can to keep it out of the landfills. Those big, plastic trees are not recyclable, nor are they biodegradable, so the best options are to reuse them. If the tree is still in good condition, donate it to a local thrift store or nonprofit. If the tree is no longer in good condition, try to reuse as many parts of the tree as you can. You may be able to use individual branches as decorations on your mantle, shelves, or tables in future years. A pair of wire cutters and a little floral tape will help you reshape and disguise the metal pieces inside the branches.

Recycle Christmas Lights

Don’t toss the balls of tangled up, busted lights ever again! Christmas light recycling is becoming much more popular and easily available in many areas. Most large home improvement stores collect lights that no longer work. In 2012, Home Depot alone collected more than 272,000 strands of lights for recycling! Check your local city website to see if your city has a collection drive this year. If they do, there will likely be a number of convenient drop-off points for you to take the non-working lights.

See also: The Battle of Christmas Lights: LED vs. Incandescent


If, on the other hand, your lights do still work, but you’ve swapped them out for LED lights or another color, consider passing them along instead of tossing them out. Do any of your friends want them for their homes? If no one in your circle wants them, you can again donate them to a local thrift store so someone else can get use of them in the coming years.

I hope these tips have helped you feel a little less guilty about your holiday trash situation. If we all take a few steps in reducing our waste, we can make a big impact on the amount of garbage heading to our landfills. Just remember, these tips are generalizations, so it’s always best to consult your city’s waste management website to get the specifics on what your recycling station can handle.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.



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