‘Tis the Season for — Recycling!

Christmas Tree Recycling sign Image Credit: shutterstock

The holiday season means gifts, packages, trees and yes — recycling!

Now, recycling is probably not the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about the holidays. But the truth is Christmas and the holidays bring all kinds of recyclable things to our homes, from wrapping to all those packages from gifts and online purchases and yes, even our Christmas trees if you’re using a real tree.

So, in keeping with the holiday spirit, the County Department of Public Works would like to give you — some tips on what to recycle and how to do it properly!

Christmas Trees

We all love our beautiful Christmas trees, and according to news reports many of us have put them up earlier than ever this year. But if yours is a real tree, there will eventually come a time to say goodbye. And the County urges you to recycle it 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. Meanwhile, putting them in the trash unnecessarily fills up 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 — which is expected to increase exponentially this year —  typically means lots of packaging. Not all packaging can be recycled. For example, cardboard boxes can be recycled (just break them down and put them into your recycling bin). But other items can’t — manila envelopes, padded plastic mailers and bubble-wrap, and traditional gift-wrapping materials including ribbons, bows, twine, tissue paper and cellophane. So please DO NOT put them in your blue recycling bins; consider re-using them instead. Here’s a link to learn more about how to Recycle Right, during the holidays and every day.

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 cards that have glitter, foil, metallic inks (inks made with tiny metal flakes) or other adornments 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, or contact a scrap metal or e-waste recycler.

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