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Be careful what you recycle during Christmas, Waste Management says

The Christmas season is filled with wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and more -- but what do you do when you're finished? While many go to recycle most of it, Waste Management Material Supervisor Roger Horne says you might not be able to recycle as much as you think. FILE Christmas Presents Stock Photo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Christmas season is filled with family, friends and giving gifts. While opening these presents is the favorite activity of many on Christmas morning, all those presents create a lot of waste.

The next few days are filled with wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and more — but what do you do when you’ve finished? While many go to recycle most of it, Waste Management Material Supervisor Roger Horne says you might not be able to recycle as much as you think.

“The wrapping paper if it doesn’t have the film on it and it’s actual paper that’s fine,” Horne said. “But the stuff that has film on it and is kind of shiny and slick, we don’t want that this time of year – ever.”

The presents may look nice when wrapped in decorative paper and colorful bows, but after you tear into those they can’t be recycled unless it is plain. That means no glitter, stickers, etc.

“Ribbons and bows are not made of recyclable material because they have that film, they have a layer of coating on them to make them shiny and bright so they are not recyclable.”

Horne says Waste Management will take some materials, such as cardboard, milk jugs, water bottles, paper and aluminum cans. However, be sure they are cleaned out.

These recycling tips go beyond just wrapping paper, Horne said. He also warns avid Christmas decorators to be careful with what they tend to throw away.

“Christmas lights […] cause us problems with our machines,” Horne said.  “They’re a hazard. Batteries are one of our biggest hazards here. Even when your battery is dead, if it gets struck correctly it can start a fire. So we do not want batteries here. Batteries are recyclable other places but not in your recycle bin that comes here.”

With holiday parties, Horne says to also watch out for what you throw in the recycling bin. Horne said it’s likely hosts will be using plastic ware or buying food that comes in plastic containers. Most of these are okay to recycle, but it’s best to double-check.

“The eggnog cartons or the frozen food boxes […] they are not recyclable because of the plastic film that’s on them and also the liquid. But if you buy it in a plastic bottle like a milk bottle or an eggnog in a milk container or a plastic container, just rinse those out and it is recyclable.”

Other Christmas-related items to keep out of your recycling bin include bubble wrap, cellophane and foam packaging. Basically, Horne said, if it’s a normal product you’d recycle — without any glitter or glued decorations — it’s good to go. But when in doubt, throw it out.

“If you put something in your recycling that’s not recyclable and it runs the potential of contaminating all that clean recyclable material and making it so it is no longer recyclable,” Horne said. “So, if you have a question, ‘Can I recycle this?’ [or] ‘I’m not sure, what should I do?’ put it in your regular garbage. That is, for me, the best that I can do.”