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Recycling is a good thing … as long as it’s done right. Done wrong, you’re contaminating what your local trash system is trying to send for recycling and potentially getting a lot more than your stuff rejected. Christmas is a big time for some recycling problems, since gift wrap can generate a lot that we want to recycle, a lot of which, it turns out, we just need to throw out.

You cannot recycle glittery, metallic, or flocked wrapping paper. Do not do it. But plain wrapping paper, even with some tape on it, is fine. One tip from the BBC: “Try to scrunch up the paper into a ball. If it scrunches, and stays scrunched, it can probably be recycled.”

When buying wrapping paper, though, you can look for the recyclable stuff. Bonus points if it’s paper made from recycled content.

You cannot recycle bows. You cannot recycle ribbons.

Or, to put it another way, you cannot put bows or ribbons or glittery or metallic paper into your recycling bin. What you can do is reuse them. The wrapping on last year’s big gift can be cut down a little to be the wrapping on this year’s medium gift. Paper that wrapped a book last year may be the easiest thing to use to wrap a book this year. The bow that’s not quite as sticky as last year can still be taped on this year. And so on.

Christmas generates a lot of additional waste each year. It’s not hard to do a little bit to change that. Start by reducing and reusing, but when you get to recycling, stop to be sure you’re not doing more harm than good by putting something in the blue bin.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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