GREENSBORO, NC -- It's called wrapping paper. But, no, you can't recycle it. I know that kinda doesn't make sense, but wrapping paper often contains non-paper additives like gold or silver and glitter. So, it's on the naughty to recycle list and it has plenty of company.

“There's a lot of machines sorting your recycling, and while humans are great at sorting your stuff, those machines are sorting by physics,” explains City of Greensboro Waste Reduction Supervisor Tori Carle. “The turning mechanisms can't tell the difference between a piece of paper and a plastic plate.”

Because of that, there is a sizable naughty recyclables list including:
wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, bows, garlands, decorations, and Christmas lights. All of these go into the garbage. Really.

The boxes your gifts were shipped in and plain paper envelopes are recyclable. But the stuff inside, like the Styrofoam, is not and neither are those plastic air packing pillows or the padded envelopes.

The plastic air packing pillows and padded envelopes made out of plastic can be taken to the grocery store to be recycled.

Now, if you're thinking to yourself, “I'll just put it all in there and THEY can figure it out” Carle has this to say, “You're creating a lot more work and in some cases it's actually dangerous when things go to the recycling center and they get all tangled around stuff. The people at work are putting on extra safety equipment and climbing gear to literally climb into machines and cut all this stuff out.”

And it costs the city extra money too, because they're taking your garbage to the recycle facility first and then the landfill.


Real trees can be recycled or composted by having the tree out on your regular pick up day. If your tree is more than 5 feet, you should cut it in half to make it more manageable for the crews.

Fake trees cannot be recycled. But they can be re-purposed and donated. Reconsidered Goods in Greensboro takes donated fake trees for a tax write off for you!


If you have more cardboard than what will fit in your recycle bin, there are 20 recycle drop-off sites for you to use for free.