Recycling 123020

Christmas present gift wrapped in mews paper tide with string.

It’s the time of year for holiday magic and cheer! While the holidays may look a little different this time around, you can still celebrate in sustainable style. Need inspiration? Here are some timely waste-reducing tips:

When preparing your holiday feast, think ahead to reduce food waste. If you’re planning a smaller gathering this year, consider smaller portion sizes. Make only half a recipe of green bean casserole or cook a smaller ham. Leftovers are wonderful, but even turkey sandwiches can get old and result in wasted turkey. If you do end up with more leftovers than you can handle, try freezing them for future use. 

For any food scraps that can’t be salvaged, make sure to put them in the food/yard waste cart so they can be composted. Yes, even turkey bones are welcome! In the composting process, all food scraps are broken down by microorganisms to produce a rich soil amendment.

Another green tip – show your love with sustainable gift-giving. Reduce gift waste by wrapping presents with re-used materials like old maps, newspaper or last year’s gift bags and bows. When you can’t reduce or reuse, make sure you recycle right. Wrapping paper is recyclable except for paper with a plastic coating or metallic finish. Bows and ribbons cannot be recycled, so save them for next year. If they’re not in reusable condition, toss them in the garbage. 

For most of us, gift giving this year includes online shopping and deliveries. When your packages arrive, make sure you know which materials are recyclable and which are not. Cardboard boxes should be flattened and recycled. There’s no need to remove the tape or stickers; they are separated out as part of the paper recycling process. Did you know cardboard can be recycled into new cardboard and paper products seven times? It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Packing foam peanuts and blocks, on the other hand, cannot be recycled in your curbside cart. Many communities have foam recycling drop off locations, so check locally for recycling options. If you don’t have a local option, it goes in the garbage. Plastic bags, bubble wrap, and other stretchy plastic films are also not accepted in your curbside recycling program.

Finally, remember to be environmentally conscious when it comes to holiday lights and decorations. When it’s time to retire a strand of lights, dispose of them properly, which is to say, NOT in your recycling cart. This is important and worth repeating: holiday lights cannot be recycled in your curbside cart. Every year, thousands of light strands cause problems at recycling centers because they tangle around recycling equipment and create hazards for workers. 

We can all do our part to reduce our waste and recycle right this holiday season. Celebrate sustainably by sharing these tips and good cheer with your loved ones near and far. 

Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. Learn more about waste reduction at

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