Seasons Green-ings: Holiday recycling tips from King County’s Solid Waste Division

From trees to light strands, to gift wrap and post-feast food scraps, take the mystery out of how to properly recycle holiday waste with tips from King County’s Solid Waste Division.


Extra waste is an unfortunate result of some holiday traditions. To take the mystery out of what can and can’t be recycled at home this holiday season, King County has these earth-friendly tips to get rid of holiday waste.

Holiday String Lights: Do you have a pile of burned-out holiday lights? Are you planning to replace old holiday lights with energy-efficient LED lights? Don't throw out old lights – recycle them! If you buy new, energy-efficient holiday lights during after Christmas sales, ask your retailer if they accept used lights, or visit one of the many light recycling locations in the Puget Sound region. Strings of lights cannot be recycled in a curbside bin.

Gift Wrap: Most plain wrapping paper can go in a recycling container. A little tape is fine but remove big pieces. Consider saving reusable wrapping paper, along with ribbons and bows. Glittery paper, coated paper, gift bags, and ribbons that can’t be used again should go in the garbage.


King County shares earth-friendly tips to get rid of holiday waste.

Packing Materials: Styrofoam (polystyrene) packing materials can’t be recycled in curbside carts, but many gift stores or shipping centers will accept clean packing peanuts free of charge to reuse. For locations, check with your city’s recycling program, or check King County’s What do I do with…? website.

Plastic Wrap, Bags and Film: Pallet wrap, shrink wrap, plastic mailers, and plastic grocery bags do not belong in curbside recycling because they get tangled in equipment at recycling facilities. Recycle clean plastics instead at one of many retail locations (external link), or find a King County transfer station that accepts plastic recycling. While throwing plastic bags and wrap in the garbage is the least-desirable option, it's better to toss them out rather than contaminating other recyclables.

Trees: Give your dry Christmas tree new life as compost or wood chips. If you have residential yard waste collection service, many local haulers will pick up trees that are set out on the curb Another option is city-sponsored recycling events. King County will recycle trees under 8-feet-tall at its Bow Lake, Factoria, Shoreline, Vashon, and Enumclaw recycling and transfer stations and the Cedar Falls Drop Box for the $16 yard waste fee that takes effect on Jan. 1.

Food: Scraps, moldy, even rotten post-feast food can always be composted. The best way to compost right is to put food and food-soiled paper in the compost bin and keep plastic out. Plastic bags, containers, and packaging should never be go in compost bins because they can contaminate compost people use on lawns and gardens. Check your local compost guidelines to ensure you're putting the right materials in your compost bin.

Electronics: If you got the latest and greatest gadgets in your stocking, be sure to recycle old electronics at a Take it Back Network location. They will accept products such as computers, TVs, cell phones, and certain other household electronics. You can also recycle computers, monitors, TVs, and e-readers for free at E-Cycle Washington (external link) locations.

Recycle Right in the New Year: Still stumped about what’s recyclable? Check with your local hauler. Putting something in recycling that doesn’t belong there could send the entire load to the landfill. If you’re ever unsure, uncertain, or in doubt about where something goes, the best option is to throw it out. Check out King County’s Recycle Right site for more information on home recycling.

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