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Getting rid of Christmas trash? Here’s what you need to know

Lissa Bittermann, business development manager at ecomaine, has suggestions for Mainers hoping to recycle their wrapping paper, Christmas lights, and more.

After the joy of opening gifts on Christmas Day, the reality of the end of the holiday season hits. What do you do with that mound of destroyed wrapping paper? Or decorative lights that won't turn on anymore?

While it may seem that most of it should just be put in the trash, experts tell NEWS CENTER Maine that’s not true! More things recycle during the holidays than we sometimes think – but it’s important that recycling is done the right way, or else it can do more harm than good.

These are some tips to keep in mind while you’re cleaning up from Wednesday’s festivities.

RELATED: How to recycle or reuse Christmas trees, cards, bows, wrapping paper and ribbons

Wrapping paper

If you can rip it, you can recycle it! That’s the main phrase to keep in mind when you’re wondering whether or not you can send that decorative paper to a better place than the landfill. Just remember, if you’re recycling, the paper can not be in a trash bag. Lissa Bittermann, business development manager at ecomaine, says that trash bags can confuse trash or recycling collectors. So, make sure you put wrapping paper into the recycling loose-leafed.

If wrapping paper cannot be ripped – for instance, if it has a lot of glitter, or is made of weird material – then it cannot be recycled. In that case, perhaps try to reuse the paper, if you can. Bittermann suggest doing the same with tissue paper, since that cannot be recycled either because it is too fine.


Chances are, the toys you bought your children were probably packed in a ton of plastic. If that's the case, make sure you look at the label before you immediately throw it in the recycling bin. The plastic has to have any number between one and seven to be qualified for single-stream recycling.

Things you use to ‘deck the halls’

Strands of Christmas lights may be made out of plastic and glass – both recyclable materials – but they cannot be recycled! The same goes for tinsel. These long objects can actually get tangled around equipment at recycling facilities, and Bittermann says that causes problems for workers at ecomaine.

If you want to get rid of these items, try donating them to Goodwill or someplace else, instead.

Bittermann also cited a list to NEWS CENTER Maine of other items people unknowingly put in the recycling – and some of them were kind of shocking! Do not try to recycle stuffed animals, roller skates, bed sheets, etc. It’s a good intention, but recycling the wrong way just makes the job tougher for workers.

Big boxes

If you were lucky enough to receive a big T.V. or electronic item this Christmas, make sure you throw the box away correctly! If you leave it out on the curb for workers to pick up, please make sure to fold it flat and take out any Styrofoam.

This will help workers fit more material in their trucks. It will also make the new addition to your home a little less obvious. Advertising that fancy flat screen you now have by putting its box on the sidewalk for everyone to see could bring unwanted attention – so just make sure you think your method of discarding through.

O Tannenbaum

Decorating the house with a Christmas tree is always a fun tradition – but when you have to part ways after the holiday passes, consider options that may give that fir a second life.

Call your town office to find out if they have any special options for discarding Christmas trees. Sometimes, there are places to drop trees off that will turn them into wood-chips or compost. Bittermann says ecomaine does not deal with Christmas trees directly – but these options fit into their reduce and reuse mantra.

Just remember… Please take off all of your ornaments before parting ways!

To see a list of all of ecomaine’s recycling dos and don’ts, visit their website. ecomaine also offers a “RECYCLOPEDIA” app, which allows you to look up an item to determine whether or not it’s recyclable.

Happy winter cleaning, everyone!

RELATED: 'Living green in 2018': Being smarter about what and how we recycle