Holiday Recycling: How to Get Your Festive Clean-Up Right | BluPlanet

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January 02, 2023

Holiday Recycling: How to Get Your Festive Clean-Up Right

The holiday season can be a time of joy, but it can also be a time of increased waste and environmental damage. From the Christmas tree stump, no-longer-needed decorations, and heaps of wrapping paper, to those endless tins of Quality Street, the amount of waste generated can quickly add up. But it doesn’t have to! By making conscious decisions about responsible holiday recycling after this festive time of year, you can help reduce your impact on the environment while still enjoying all that comes with the season. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can properly recycle items such as wrapping paper, holiday cards, and even Christmas trees after the festivities are over. Let’s get started!

What Can Be Included in a Holiday Recycling Plan?

Christmas Trees (Real)

As you know, Christmas trees are a staple when it comes to celebrating the holidays. While it may seem like Christmas trees are destined for the landfill once they've served their purpose as part of your holiday decorations, there's actually a way to recycle them that's better for both your wallet and the environment. 

(Take note: The landfill method will cost you money!)

Our advice is simple: If you want to do right by Mother Nature (and save some money doing so), make sure all those branches are properly collected as part of your regular waste collection service. 

For best Christmas tree recycling practices, you can either:

  • Cut up your tree and put it in your green cart (just remember to remove lights, ornaments, tinsel, tree stand, etc) or
  • Bring your tree to the most convenient temporary Calgary drop-off location

Visit the City of Calgary’s Christmas tree composting program to learn more and to find Calgary Christmas tree recycling locations.

Wrapping Paper

If you’ve been wondering, “Can Christmas wrapping paper be recycled?”, we’ve got you covered!

If you want to get rid of leftover wrapping paper and other Christmas decorations, there are several options.

Reuse it

If you have unopened gift wrap or even used gift wrap that is still in great condition, why not store it and save it for next year? How convenient! 

Recycle it

Sending your wrapping and tissue paper through the recycling process is as easy as crumpling it up and throwing it in your blue bin - just remember to remove as much string, ribbon, and tape as possible first. 

Donate it

Some charities have gift-wrapping stations at which they will take donations of unused boxes and bags as well as any old festive decorations that you no longer want. They will then pass them on to people who might be able to use them instead of throwing them out. 


Are Christmas cards recyclable? Yep!

You can simply recycle any cards or letters you no longer need by placing them in your blue recycling bin. 


You may have forgotten some leftovers in the depths of your fridge, and those can go straight into your green organics bin at this point! 

However, if you still have frozen holiday leftovers, don’t let the possibilities go to waste; upcycle your holiday food creatively and help out the environment at the same time. 

Check out Will Cook for Smiles and What’s for Dinner for delicious ideas on how to transform your holiday leftovers!

Has holiday recycling left you with extra bags of waste? Be sure to check out our bag tag guidelines.

Is There Anything I Can’t Recycle?

Christmas Trees (Artificial)

Unlike their real counterparts, artificial Christmas trees cannot be recycled. 

Instead, we recommend donating them to the Salvation Army or the Calgary Drop-in Centre. Otherwise, they should be broken down and placed into your black waste bin.

Christmas Lights

We’re sorry to be the bearer of bad recycling news, but when it comes to answering the question “Can you recycle Christmas lights?”, the answer is no thanks to all the plastic and metal parts. Unusable lights just go in your black bin as waste. 

That said, if you have working Christmas lights that you are looking to get rid of, we encourage you to donate them to participating charities such as: 

Wrapping Ribbons & Bows 

If you do not wish to save ribbons and bows for future occasions, they are to be placed in your black garbage bin. 

Decorations & Ornaments 

Decorations and ornaments are considered waste and should be placed in your black cart, which is why we always encourage people to donate ones that are in good condition to participating charities.

Special note: For the safety of yourself and your waste management team, broken glass and sharp decorations must be handled with care. Per the City of Calgary’s instruction:

  • Package broken glass and sharp items safely by putting the pieces into a puncture-resistant, non-breakable container (e.g. plastic tub, plastic pail, laundry detergent container, etc)
  • Alternatively, wrap in two layers of paper and place in a tied bag
  • Labels as 'sharps' with a permanent marker and place in your black cart

Happy Holiday Recycling!

So there you have it - a few simple steps to ensure your holiday recycling is a success!

With all the waste that the holidays create, taking the time to separate out items can have a huge positive impact on our world - it also provides many opportunities to give back to those in need. 

This new year, remember to make recycling part of your end-of-season celebrations - you'll be creating a healthier holly-jolly planet for us all!

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