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How To Recycle Holiday Packaging

Happy holidays! If you’re like us, you’re looking forward to giving and exchanging gifts this year. At the same time, you’re fretting about how to responsibly dispose of all that holiday packaging. You remember previous holidays and garbage bags brimming with discarded gift wrapping and boxes? Us too.

Kraft gift bags

Don’t worry—we have tips on how to recycle most of your holiday packaging:

Gift Bags: If you receive any presents in Kraft paper bags, these are 100% recyclable. Before you toss these bags into your blue bin at home, though, make sure that you remove any handles that aren’t paper, such as plastics, ribbons, or string materials.

Holiday gift bagsCheck other bags to see if they have lamination, which provides an extra layer of protection against tears, fingerprints, smudges, etc. Laminated bags are made from paper and plastic, which requires heat to break down. As a result, they can’t always be recycled with typical mixed paper products, requiring a special facility and equipment to be properly recycled.

If these facilities aren’t available in your area, consider using these bags for lunch bags or art projects!

Boxes: Corrugated boxes are 100% recyclable. If they are laminated, however, they pose the same challenges as laminated gift bags. See above.

Group of wrapping paper tubesWrapping Paper: Plain or glossy wrapping paper can be recycled. However, metallic or wax-coated paper can’t be recycled because of—guess what—lamination. Dyes and/or the addition of non-paper materials such as glitter and plastic also are problems.

Instead of tossing wrapping paper in the trash, why not save it to wrap presents for others next year? Instead of re-gifting, consider it re-wrapping. Long before recycling caught on, many of our relatives were saving wrapping paper like this.

Pile of different bows & ribbonsBows: They’re pretty, but hard to recycle because they’re made from a paper/plastic composite and glue. Instead, plan to re-use them—just as many of our moms have always done.

Ribbons: Like bows, ribbons are not recyclable but can be re-used for other purposes, particularly if they’re made from high-quality material such as satin or velvet.

Christmas Cards: Paper-based cards can be easily recycled. If you receive fancy cards, tear off the glitter or metallic embossing and throw in the trash while recycling the rest of the card.

Plastics: Does your Aunt Betty celebrate the holidays by giving you a plate of her famed snickerdoodle cookies wrapped in plastic film? You can’t throw the plastic film in the blue bin at home, because lightweight plastic will gum up the sorting machines at your local recycling facility. Instead, retailers or grocery stores that accept plastic bags for recycling will accept plastic film too.

We hope these holiday packaging recycling tips help you enjoy this time of year with guilt-free sustainability. Now go forth and give your beautifully wrapped gifts!