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Can I Recycle These Ribbons? Holiday Recycling Questions Answered

Most of these items should go in the brown bin, not the blue one. Better yet: Reuse them.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Most of these items should go in the brown bin, not the blue one. Better yet: Reuse them.

It's the holiday season, and if you celebrate, your trash and recycling bins are likely filling up faster than usual. During the season, you might find yourself standing over one of those bins, holding a byproduct of gift-giving or feasting, and wondering where to toss it. 

Here is a basic guide:

Tinsel and ribbons cannot be recycled. Most shiny, laminated wrapping paper isn't recyclable, either. If there's a texture to it, think twice before putting it in the blue bin.

Austin Resource Recovery Director Ken Snipes says foil wrapping paper is also a no-no.

“Be considerate of using things like recycled paper for wrapping gifts,” he says. “Also, we would ask people to think about not wrapping presents at all if you have that option.”

What if your present comes in a bundle of cardboard and thin plastic, like the packaging for a lot of kids' toys and electronics?

Snipes says the best thing to do is separate the cardboard from the plastic. Recycle the cardboard and trash the plastic.

Cities also don't want ropes and hoses in recycling bins; they tangle up the gears that sort recyclables. Strings of Christmas lights can do that and should never go in the recycling bin.

Other things that cannot be recycled include plastic shopping bags, electronics, wood, Styrofoam and textiles.

And what about your Christmas tree? Austin residents can leave their trees at the curb to be picked up for mulch or compost – but not if they have fake spray snow on them.

It’s called “flocking” a tree, Snipes says, “that process interrupts the ability to compost those trees.”

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit .

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5 since 2009, covering local and state issues. Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.