Some holiday waste can be recycled, but others are actually harmful to the recycling process. For the most part, wrapping paper is recyclable; paper with glitter, foil, or plastics is unfortunately not recyclable and would need to go out with the garbage.
If it’s not too damaged, you can put the foil and glitter paper aside for next year — no need to keep buying new wrapping paper each year to only toss into landfills — but what about the bows, ribbons, and dysfunctional Christmas lights? The best options include reusing your holiday wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows each year, and with a little foresight you can set yourself up for success next year. Here’s what to do with all the holiday accouterments after the holidays.
Reuse ribbons and bows
After the holidays, keep your ribbons and bows separate from your recyclable wrapping paper. These items are hazardous to the recycling mill machines, as ribbons made of synthetic materials and plastics wrap around the machine’s spinning wheels and create a clog. The glue that allows the bow to stick to the wrapped gifts is also detrimental to the recycling mills. Instead, store your ribbons and bows for next year. The adhesive may not last for bows that stick, but both bows and ribbons work just as well with tape.
When you’re cleaning up after this year’s festivities remember that most wrapping paper these days is actually recyclable.Read more
Use as packing material for shipping
The Holiday and Party Guide has several creative ways to reuse your old bows, but using them for shipping is my favourite. Packing materials are fundamental when it comes to shipping during the holidays, but styrofoam is incredibly hazardous and contributes to harmful greenhouse gasses. Although old ribbons are not 100% safe for the environment, reusing them produces less waste and helps keep styrofoam out of landfills.
Make bows into a garland
Upcycling your holiday materials is a creative way to lower waste, plus you don’t need to buy new material every year. Bows, when strung together, create a colourful and long-lasting garland and can also make cleaning up a fun activity with younger kids after the holidays.
Recycle your Christmas lights
Holiday lights are recyclable when taken to companies specializing in their disposal. Some companies like Lowe’s or Home Depot will take your old lights and provide discounts, while others will shred or smelt the lights down to their raw materials to repurpose as PVC piping, roofing materials, and into other electronics like car batteries. You’re probably near a Lowe’s or Home Depot, but if not, Treehuggers journalist Russell McLendon provides some more information on recycling centres or programs where you can recycle your old holiday lights.