This is a paid piece from Millennium Recycling.

Simplified: All of the extra food, fun and festivities of the holiday season often comes with extra waste as well. Here's a guide to what can go in the recycling bin, and what should go to the trash instead.

Why it matters

  • The holiday season usually means people are using more food, boxes, wrapping paper, decorations and stuff in general. Typically waste around the holidays increases 25 percent.
  • That increase shows up at Millennium Recycling, too, said Marissa Begley, communications and education director. The single-stream recycling facility often sees an increase in cardboard, but also an increase in contamination, i.e., items that end up in recycling that don't belong there.
  • More contamination means more strain on the workers at Millennium Recycling as well as more items getting sent to the dump in a less-efficient manner. By paying attention to the following tips, you can avoid being part of that strain over the holidays.
"There are lots of options for holiday waste besides the trash," Begley said. "We want to help keep as much excess waste out of the landfill, while also keeping contamination out of recycling bins."

Ok, what can I recycle?

Here's a quick rundown of food-related items you can recycle. With all of these items, make sure all food is wiped off or emptied before you put it in the bin:

  • Aluminum foil, trays and pans
  • Vegetable metal cans and other tin food cans
  • Plastic food tubs, bottles and jugs
  • Glass food jars
  • Aerosol food cans (whipped cream, oil spray, etc.)
  • Disposable paper cups
  • Glass and plastic beverage bottles
  • Beverage cans

What about holiday cards, wrapping paper and gift bags?

The general rule is if there are no foil, glitter, metallic or plastic decorations, the paper products are all good to recycle.

Here's a more specific breakdown:

  • Paper holiday cards and envelopes
  • Plain wrapping paper, tissue paper and cardboard core (as long as the wrapping paper doesn't have any type of waxy/shiny coating)
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper boxes and paper gift bags (again, no glitter or shiny coating).

What doesn't belong in the recycling bin?

Anything that can't be recycled in the single stream. Here's a more specific list:

  • Bubble wrap, cellophane and foam packaging
  • Plastic bags
  • Decor including lights, trees and wreaths
  • Ribbons and bows
  • Batteries and electronics
  • Toys
  • Clothes
  • Disposable plastic and styrofoam cups
  • Disposable silverware
  • Napkins, paper towels and tissues
  • Food scraps
  • Plastic table cloths

What do I do with my Christmas tree?

If you have a real tree:

  • Each year, the city designates drop-off locations for trees, where they can be taken at no charge. Those announcements typically come closer to the end of December or early January.

If you have an artificial tree:

  • Consider donating it if it's in good enough shape.
  • Repurpose certain pieces to make wreaths, garland, whatever creative idea you've got.
  • As a last resort? Throw it in the trash.

What about strings of lights that no longer work?

String lights can't be processed by single-stream recycling, and they also don't belong in a landfill.

If they're still functional, consider donating them. If they're beyond their useful life, the city's Household Hazardous Waste Facility will recycle them for free.

Anything else I should know?

If you have questions about what can and cannot go in the recycling bin, you can always reach out to Millennium Recycling at 605-336-1744 or

They've got comprehensive lists of what can and cannot be recycled here and here, as well.