December 27, 2010 in Features

Holiday recycling can get you on the nice list

Terri Bennett McClatchy

Once Santa’s sleigh has left the neighborhood and the gifts have all been opened, there are a few important items you’ll want to make sure you get rid of the right way.

Do your part and recycle these five items that the holidays are sure to leave behind.

Live Christmas trees

Christmas trees are naturally biodegradable and beneficial for the environment outside our homes.

If you purchased a tree with roots, plant it in your backyard or donate it to a local school, park or cemetery for planting.

For trees without roots, search for “Christmas Tree” to check for recyclers in your area. Otherwise, if you have a large backyard, let the tree decompose naturally in an out-of-the-way location while it continues to provide a natural habitat for birds.

Used electronics

Chances are some of those new holiday gifts will be replacing older models. Instead of letting them collect dust, do your part and recycle or donate them.

Many online trade-in websites can help you with this task, and may even pay you for the working ones.

If you’d rather skip the hassle of shipping and handling, bring used electronics to a local Goodwill collection center where they will be refurbished or recycled.

Packaging materials

Cardboard gift boxes, shipping boxes and other packaging material can be recycled along with other paper recyclables. If the gift box is still in usable condition, save it to reuse again next year.

Packaging materials like Styrofoam peanuts are not recyclable but can be taken back to shipping stores where they can be reused.

Holiday lights

If your incandescent holiday lights no longer work be sure to recycle them. Large retailers offer holiday light trade-in or recycling programs as an incentive to upgrade to LED lights. will accept your broken or unwanted incandescent lights any time and they’ll even give you credit toward your next purchase of LED lights.

Greeting cards

For decades St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nev., has been collecting Christmas cards that they re-purpose and resell to raise funds for organization’s mission.

Add a new tradition to the end of your holiday season by donating your stack of holiday cards to a good cause. Only the fronts of cards are needed and they should be clear of writing or other marks on the back of the front flap.

Wrapping paper is the glaring item missing from this list. While all wrapping papers should be recyclable, that’s simply not the case. Many are laminated or mixed with other non-recyclable materials like foil, glitter or plastic.

You’re better off choosing recyclable items or ones that can be used again such as gift bags, sheets of paper from magazines or newspapers, sheet music, or even colorful scarves make greener choices for gift wrap.

Visit for additional information and useful links to help increase your recycling efforts this holiday season.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and host of, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to

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