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Can I recycle these ribbons? Holiday recycling questions answered

Ribbons and wrapping paper on display in a store.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Most of these items should go in the brown bin, not the blue one. Better yet: Reuse them.

This story originally ran Dec. 24, 2019.

It's the holiday season, and if you celebrate, your trash and recycling bins are likely filling up faster than usual. During the season, you might find yourself standing over one of those bins, holding a byproduct of gift-giving or feasting and wondering where to toss it. 

Here is a basic guide:

Tinsel and ribbons cannot be recycled.

Most shiny, laminated wrapping paper isn't recyclable, either. If there's a texture to it, think twice before putting it in the blue bin.

Former Austin Resource Recovery Director Ken Snipes said foil wrapping paper is also a no-no.

“Be considerate of using things like recycled paper for wrapping gifts,” he said. “Also, we would ask people to think about not wrapping presents at all if you have that option.”

What if your present comes in a bundle of cardboard and thin plastic, like the packaging for a lot of kids' toys and electronics? Many types of plastic aren't recyclable — but cardboard is. Snipes said the best thing to do is separate them, then recycle the cardboard and trash the plastic.

Cities also don't want ropes and hoses in recycling bins; they tangle up the gears that sort recyclables. Strings of Christmas lights can do that and should never go in the recycling bin.

Other things that cannot be recycled in the blue bin include plastic shopping bags, electronics, wood, Styrofoam and textiles.

And what about your Christmas tree? Austinites who quality for curbside collection can leave their trees at the curb to be picked up on their compost day — but not if they have fake spray snow on them.

It’s called “flocking” a tree, Snipes said, and “that process interrupts the ability to compost those trees.”

You can also drop off your tree at Zilker Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Saturday, Dec. 30
  • Saturday, Jan. 6
  • Sunday, Jan. 7
Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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