If you’re surrounded by endless wrapping paper, festive bows and Christmas cards this holiday, it’s important to note proper recycling protocols — especially for paper products, the most recycled material in the U.S, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Millions of Americans can also do their part during the holiday season by recycling paper-based products at home,” Heidi Brock, President and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Brock added that a common mistake people make at the end of the year is “Wishcycling.”
“The act of putting something in the recycling bin in the hope that someone else will figure out what to do with it, actually impedes the recycling process,” she said, urging communities to help educate consumers about local guidelines.
Not everything can go in those blue bins. Glue, ribbons and glitter-dusted decorations can clog the recycling process. Most nonpaper products need to be tossed or reused.
Each holiday gift wrap is disposed of differently at the end of the year. Unsure of what to do as you pack up this season’s festivities in a sustainable way? Have no fear — this list is for you.
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Brock said plain wrapping paper can be recycled. Sheets with foil, glitter and plastic or poly coatings cannot. Additional nonpaper embellishments should also be avoided.
According to Lisa Skumatz, National Recycling Coalition chairperson, wrapping paper should be separated from your regular curbside mix. It can be recycled with special programs for collection and drop-off in some cities.
Try reusing wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. If Christmas morning causes damage beyond repair, trash it — and maybe consider sturdier gift bags to easily reuse in the future.
“We do discourage people from using wrapping paper because it is difficult to recycle and instead encourage people to either use reusable gift bags or other types of materials or use recyclable material like calendars, maps, etc,” said Randy Moorman of Ecocycle, a recycling non-profit in Colorado.
Gift bag recycling requirements are similar to wrapping paper. Plain paper bags can be put in the recycling bin — but not bags made with plastic, foil or fabric according to Brock and the American Forest and Paper Association.
If a paper bag has rope handles, beads or other nonpaper decorative elements, remove them before recycling.