Know What to Recycle this Holiday Season

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Recycling smart means ensuring that what we put in our bins actually belongs there. This is critical for protecting our environment and supporting our local communities. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is committed to educating consumers on the do’s and don’ts of recycling this holiday season—helping us stay green even when we’re blanketed in white!

Holiday lights 
Though beautiful on your house, tree or mantel, string lights don’t belong in your recycling bin. They wrap around machinery at your local recycling facility, causing sorting to come to a grinding halt! String lights should be reused or disposed of in your trash bin.

Food waste
No matter what holiday you are celebrating, a tasty meal is more than likely a central part of it! After you’ve cleared the table, rinse cans and jars, and make sure all food packaging is empty and free of food remnants before tossing them in your recycling bin. All food waste should be placed in your compost or trash.

Gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, and tissue paper
Who among us doesn’t accumulate piles of wrapping paper, broken ribbon and bows, and tissue paper at some point during the holiday season? Gift bags can be thrown in your household recycling unless there is metallic ink, foil or glitter on them, in which case, you should toss them in the trash along with wrapping paper. Don’t forget to cut those string handles off your gift bags before recycling! Tissue paper, ribbon, and bows should be reused or put in the trash as well.

Greeting cards
Spreading holiday cheer is one of the best ways to celebrate this special time of year! Greeting cards and their envelopes are recyclable unless there is metallic ink, foil or glitter on them, in which case, you should toss them in the trash.

Packing peanuts, bubble wrap and padded envelopes
While cardboard boxes belong in your recycling bin, packing peanuts, and padded envelopes should be put in your trash, while bubble wrap should be brought back to your supermarket to be properly recycled along with plastic wrap and plastic bags.

Paper plates, plastic cutlery, colored plastic cups and paper napkins
Disposable plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins are a staple of many holiday get-togethers, but unfortunately, they cannot be recycled (the exception is clear plastic cups). These items should go in the trash after you’re done with them.


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