Recycle Right for a Sustainable Holiday Season


The holidays are a time for family, food and fun. However, did you know that Americans generate 25 percent more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than during the rest of the year? This equates to an extra one million tons of waste generation per week nationwide during the holidays.

The County of San Diego is here to offer some simple tips on how to reduce your waste, Recycle Right, and create a more sustainable holiday season.

Holiday Recycling

Holiday recycling guideClick to view the holiday recycling guide.

While waste during the holidays may increase, much of what is generated can be recycled or reused. Check out our Don’t Take A Holiday From Recycling guide for additional info. Some of the common recyclable items during the holidays include:

  • Juice and Egg Nog cartons
  • Pie tins and metal cans
  • All types of glass bottles and jars
  • All shapes and sizes of cardboard boxes

Equally as important as recycling accepted items in your blue bin is Recycling Right. This means that your paper, cardboard & cartons, plastic bottles & containers, glass bottles & jars, and metal and aluminum cans & foil are:

  • EMPTY. No or very little food residue remaining.
  • DRY. No liquids remaining. Liquids can ruin paper, cardboard, and other materials in the recycle bin – making them unrecyclable.
  • LOOSE. Do not bag your recyclables; place them loose in the recycling bin.

Did you know many traditional gift-wrapping materials, such as ribbon, bows, and cellophane, are not recyclable in your blue bin?

Stick to these recyclable items when wrapping presents:

  • Paper wrap without metallic and glitter designs
  • Paper gift bags
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper cards and envelopes
  • Glass jars are great for DIY gifts
Holiday recycling tips

These materials cannot be recycled in your curbside bin. Please consider avoiding or reusing them:

  • Metallic, glossy, and glitter-covered wrapping paper
  • Ribbons, bows, and twine
  • Polystyrene packing peanuts
  • Cards on glossy photo paper
  • Plastic bags, plastic film, and plastic online mailers (return to participating stores for recycling)
  • Tissue paper

Reuse supplies you have on hand. This can include cardboard shipping boxes, tissue paper from another item, and paper bags from the store.  Consider saving and reusing the gift bags, tissue paper, and other materials you were gifted this year for next year.  You’ll save money and reduce your waste at the same time.

No-No-No Items

“Wish-cycling” involves placing items in the blue bin that aren’t accepted for recycling.  This practice causes more harm than good. Materials that aren’t accepted in the blue bin for recycling can damage equipment at the recycling facility and pose a danger to workers. “When in doubt, leave it out.” Better yet, consult the County’s Recycling guide,, or email for more info.

DO NOT place in the recycle bin:

  • Bagged recyclables
    • Only exception is shredded paper - place in a large, clear bag and tie closed)
  • Plastic bags, plastic film and online envelope mailers (i.e., Amazon)
    • While these CANNOT be placed in your blue bin, they CAN be returned to retailers for recycling or reused. Visit for more info.
  • "Tanglers"
    • Hoses, chains, cords, tarps, hangers, holidays lights and tubing
  • Clothes, textiles, and hangers
    • Donate instead
  • Hazardous materials
    • Batteries, light bulbs, propane tanks, needles/sharps
  • Electronic waste
    • Computers, keyboards, cables, phones, etc.
  • Organics
    • Untreated wood and yard waste can be placed in your green waste bin and food waste can be composted

Really want to kick your holiday sustainability game up a notch? Check out the Zero Waste Guide to Holiday Gifts from I Love A Clean San Diego.

We hope you’ll find these tips useful as we strive to make San Diego more sustainable. Recycling does still work and provides a valuable supply of materials for manufacturers around the globe.

Happy Holidays!