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Is wrapping paper recyclable? Probably not in most cities.

City recycling machines can't handle everything. Don't put wrapping paper, gift bags, bows or tissue paper in the recycling bin.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Keeping yourself off the naughty list can be tricky. Here's help, at least when it comes to recycling.

There are items on the naughty list you would never think should be there: wrapping paper, tissue paper. Gift bags and tags are also on the naughty list.

“Sticky gift tags are not recyclable, but the inside of the present, the cardboard box it is in is recyclable, you can put that in your home bin,” said Masey Doss, the City of Greensboro Recycling and Waste Educator.

If you put those naughty items in the bin, you're “wishcycling” and that just means more work for the folks at the facility. Many of the items the City of Greensboro can’t take are recyclable, just not with their machines.

Speaking of, paper plates, single-use cups, and plastic utensils are not recyclable.  Just because it can be recycled somewhere doesn't mean you can put it in the bin at home.

“These padded plastic bubble mailers from Amazon are not recyclable even though they have this symbol on the bag. You can drop them off at the grocery store with your plastic bags but not in your bin at home,” said Doss.

Sometimes it's just easier to show you what you can recycle. It’s a yes to the gift boxes, envelopes, paper, plastic bottles and jugs, metal food cans, and drink cans.

ONLY recycle these items:

  1. Paper & cardboard
  2. Metal food and drink cans
  3. Plastic bottles, tubs, and jugs

Do I have to wash out my containers? 

It's helpful, but if you don't get the material completely cleaned it's not the end of the world! 

Should I leave the lid on plastic bottles when I recycle them? 

Yes. The rule of thumb is if the lid twists on or off, keep it on! If the lid pops off, take it off. 

Garbage in the recycling

The City of Greensboro’s recycling contamination rate is at an all-time high. The national average for non-recyclables in recycling is ~10% and Greensboro has a 22% contamination rate according to our Recycling Center. Ongoing recycling education efforts have not improved the situation, and the City’s Waste Reduction team only has one Solid Waste Code Enforcement Officer who is unable to monitor all 90,000+ service units in a given collection cycle.


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