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Recycling 'Right' During the Holidays

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT
The items on the left are OK to recycle. The items on the right are not.

You’ve opened all the gifts and enjoyed a nice big meal. Now, you’re surrounded by mountains of wrapping paper and piles of disposable dinnerware.

But don’t grab the trash bags just yet. Here are some tips for getting more of that waste into the recycling bin this holiday season.

"Tissue paper is definitely recyclable," Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert says.

Wrapping paper is also fine to put in the recycling bin but not wrapping paper that is the shiny, foil-type. Ribbons and bows also need to go in the trash.

So what about the stuff in the kitchen?

“Paper plates are recyclable only without food," Gedert says. "So if you’re using paper plates for food then it becomes contaminated and therefore can’t be recycled.”

Gedert suggests avoiding this problem altogether and using plastic disposable plates than can be easily rinsed and recycled. Or, better yet, use them again or just use regular dinnerware.

Plastic utensils can also be rinsed and recycled. Cups – even those with a wax coating – are OK to go into the recycling bin.

But the stuff off of the Christmas tree? Probably not.

“The old tinsel from long ago was foil. Now, it’s plastic. It’s a metallic-looking plastic and not recyclable," Gedert says. "Most of the ornaments are multi-material and generally could not be recycled."

Of course, you can also recycle the Christmas tree itself. The City of Austin's website has more information on that.


  • Paper wrapping paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Shredded paper (bag and label it)
  • Paper plates (only OK w/o food residue or grease)

NOT Recyclable:

  • Foil wrapping paper
  • Ribbons
  • Bubble wrap
  • Tinsel
  • Ornaments (unless only made of hard plastic)
Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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