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Avoiding a Season of Waste During the Holidays

Gift wrap and bags are recyclable as long as the material is not metallic or glittery.(frankieleon/Flickr)
Gift wrap and bags are recyclable as long as the material is not metallic or glittery.
December 22, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Despite all the wrapping paper, shipping boxes and food packaging, the holiday season doesn't have to be a season of waste. Experts say many items can be kept out of the landfill by properly recycling them.

According to the EPA, 1 million tons of household waste ends up in landfills between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That's why Trish Radke, program coordinator with Metro Waste Authority, is encouraging Iowans to stick to their regular recycling guidelines.

"We're going a mile a minute and there is a lot to do,” Radke said, "but it really doesn't take that much extra time to make sure that you're doing what you do all year long, making sure those basic materials, paper, the plastics with twist-off lids, cans and basic glass go in the cart."

Gift wrap and bags are recyclable as long as the material is not metallic and doesn’t have glitter on it. Some bows, however, are not. Radke suggests starting a bow pile so they can be reused.

Tech items are popular gifts, and electronic devices are often discarded after the holidays. But Radke said those old phones, televisions and tablets need to be sold, donated or taken to an electronic recycling program since they are not fit for curbside recycling.

With the explosion of Amazon and other home shopping services, Radke said many folks have piles of boxes to discard. While boxes are perfect for the recycle cart, the packing materials inside usually are not.

"Bubble wrap or plastic wrap is not recyclable, nor is the Styrofoam that often comes in that packaging,” she said. “So take all of that packaging material out, throw it in the garbage or reuse it if you can.”

Strings of Christmas lights are also not recyclable.

"Those definitely should not go in your cart,” Radke said. "When they get to the recycling sorting facilities, they actually wrap around the machines and cause a lot of damage and prevent the good recyclables from getting recycled."

If not donated or sold, old artificial Christmas trees should go in the regular trash. However, most real trees can be recycled through community 'Compost It!' programs.

For more information on recycling this holiday season, visit

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA