Giving, Receiving, Recycling!

Christmas Tree Recycling sign Image Credit: shutterstock

The gifts! The wrapping! The packages! The lights! Even the trees.

The holiday season brings lots of stuff — lots of stuff that can be recycled. We know with all the shopping, visiting and preparing, you probably haven’t had a minute to think about recycling.

So, this holiday season, the County Department of Public Works’ (DPW) Recycling Division has some recycling tips to help you out.

Christmas Trees

We all love our beautiful Christmas trees, but if yours is a real tree, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye. And the County urges everyone to recycle their real trees properly. Check with your waste hauler to find out if they offer curbside pickup — many do. Or go to the County’s recycling and hazardous waste database to find Christmas tree drop-off sites near you. Type “Christmas tree” in the “find an item” box, add your ZIP code, community and how you heard about the site, and you’ll see all the drop-off locations near you. Don’t leave your old, dry tree or wreaths lying in your backyard. They can become fire hazards. Putting them in the trash takes up space in landfills and generates unwanted greenhouse gases when they decompose. Properly recycled trees and wreaths can be turned into mulch that will improve soil health and help soil retain moisture at our parks, farms, home gardens and landscapes.

Know What Packaging Can — and Can’t — be Recycled

Gift-giving and online shopping typically means lots of packaging. Not all packaging can be safely recycled. For example, cardboard boxes can be recycled (just break them down and put them into your recycling). But manila envelopes and bubble-wrap can not be recycled. So please DO NOT put them in your recycling bins; consider re-using them instead. Here’s a recent DPW Facebook post with more information about what can and can’t be recycled.

Christmas and Holiday Card Recycling

Like packaging materials, not all holiday cards should be added to your recycling. Simple paper cards and envelopes can be added to your blue bins. But if your cards have glitter, foil, metallic inks (inks made with tiny metal flakes) or other adornments, they can’t. If there’s a glitzy front and plain paper backing, tear the cards in two. Recycle the backs and put the glitzy fronts into the trash.

Holiday Light Recycling

Please — don’t put old holiday lights in your recycling bins. They can tangle up recycling equipment and they also pose a danger to workers in those recycling centers. For recycling options, please visit, contact a scrap metal or e-waste recycler or ask for options at your local Home Depot.

So there you have it. Remember, if you have other questions about what can and can’t be recycled, go to DPW Recycling’s webpage or to DPW Recycling’s Facebook page.

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact