The gifts have been opened and all you have left is cleanup duty. What should you do with all of that packaging and wrapping paper?

Before you simply toss out all of your Christmas paper, take a look at what you can keep out of the landfill. According to the general guidelines from Waste Management, you should only recycle:

  • Dry, plain paper
  • Cardboard packaging that has been broken down
  • Clean, dry glass and plastic containers

That means that any foil-embellished or glittery papers are strictly prohibited in paper recycling. The same goes for gift bags, so be sure to remove any plastic handles, or tabs before putting them in the recycling bin. According to Earth 911, a good way to check if something can be recycled is to crunch it up into a ball. If it keeps its shape, it's probably all paper and is safe to include.

Generally speaking, decorative bows and ribbons have some element of plastic to them and can wreak havoc on a recycling machine. Those tangle hazards need to go straight in the trash. Break down any mailing boxes and cardboard as flat as you can make it, removing any plastic tape as you go.

Photo by Tania Melnyczuk

Next year, when you're thinking about the best way to leave a smaller carbon footprint around the holidays, don't forget to buy plain wrapping paper and skip the bows and ribbons. You can even use brown paper grocery bags and some butcher's twine or yarn for a rustic, cottage-core look! 

If you simply must go for gift bags, opt for all-paper designs, with jute or twisted cord handles. Stuff them with colored tissue paper and you won't miss any of the glittery mess. Remember, it's what's inside that counts!

What type of eco-friendly, recyclable Christmas paper or gift bags do you use? Let us know in the comments.