Recycling Christmas

Beth Rice 20/12/2018

Silent Night,

Holy Night,

May we all recycle right,

For Christmas comes with wrapping that thrills,

Let’s keep it out of the nearest landfill,

Sort each recyclable piece,

Sort each and every piece.

With holiday time comes giftwrap, packages, bows, dinnerware, ornaments and cards. Among these materials are some great, and some not so great, opportunities to recycle. While we’re making strides to recycle as much as we can, there are questions that come up about just what can be recycled and what can’t. Here we offer a simple guide with some tips on How to Recycle Christmas.

Christmas table decor.
Photo Credit:

Christmas Items You Can Recycle:

  • Gift wrap:  Some, not all.
  • Cardboard boxes: Break them down as flat as you can.
  • Christmas cards: Plain ones can be recycled, anything shiny or glittery cannot. Instead of throwing them away, use them for gift tags next year.
  • Christmas trees: Live trees can be recycled instead of thrown away.

Christmas Items You Cannot Recycle:

  • Dirty paper plates, cups, and napkins:  Most are disposable, not recyclable. Some plastic utensils are not made with recyclable material. Please check for a resin symbol and then check to see if those items are recyclable where you live.
  • Dirty paper towels.
  • Ribbons and bows.
  • Plastic grocery bags: Plastic bags are getting tangled in machines and shutting down some recycling procedures. This problem has grown so much that Waste Management has started a program called Recycle Often, Recycle Right. You can learn more about it here
Plastic bags
Photo Credit:


For Ribbons and Bows:

  • Re-use bows for as long as you can. Sticky and shiny parts of the bow are not recyclable. Once they are no longer attractive, throw them away.
  • Ribbons pose a threat to the machinery that sorts recycling. If they get tangled, they can shut the whole operation down.
Curly ribbons.
Photo Credit:


For Gift Wrap:

  • Shiny, foily gift wrap is not recyclable, only plain gift wrap is recyclable.
  • There are some companies that make eco-friendly recyclable gift wrap. We liked the Green Field Paper Company that offers recyclable wrapping paper with seeds in it that you can plant after using! 
Green Field Paper Company


Recycling Christmas Trees

For Christmas Trees:

Live Christmas trees are biodegradable and can be recycled and used for:

  • Mulching: the branches can be removed, chipped and used in your garden.
  • Soil erosion barriers.
  • Fish feeding areas in fish ponds.
  • Bird feeders: create a sanctuary for birds when you put your tree in the backyard.

Many local waste management services will pick up trees during the weeks following Christmas. Be sure all ornaments are removed and check for any restrictions on tree size.


  • When you’re shopping for gifts, take reusable cloth bags to use just as you do for groceries.
  • Gift cards as gifts cut down on waste and take less time when you’re shopping.
  • Consider making some handmade gifts like baking cookies or making ornaments.
  • Make gift tags with recycled Christmas cards.
Christmas sugar cookies
Photo Credit:

There you have it, what we hope is a helpful and handy guide to recycling Christmas. Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy holiday and new year.

If you’re interested in conserving resources, visit our sister site for recycled and eco-friendly products for the home. 

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