While the holidays bring fun and festive cheer, they also bring a massive amount of waste. Between November and December, 25% more waste, or an extra 1 million tons of waste per week, enters the American waste stream. Once your holiday celebrations are over, you might have decorations left over that you don’t know what to do with. For many items, there are other disposal options besides sending them to the landfill. Read on to learn about how to properly dispose of 7 common holiday decorations.  



Pumpkins, being fruit, are totally compostable, as long as there is no paint on them. Simply place the pumpkin in your compost bin with your other food scraps. If you don’t have access to compost, try checking with your local community garden, farm, zoo, or wildlife refuge, who often take donations of old pumpkins to feed animals.  


Natural Christmas Trees 

Live Christmas trees can also make a great addition to a compost bin. As with pumpkins, just cut the tree up and place it in with your food scraps. Alternatively, since it is a tree, you can also cut your tree into smaller parts and dispose of it as yard waste. Just make sure you remove all artificial decorations, like tinsel and baubles, before you do so.  

Glittery holiday gift wrap with ribbons and twine sprawled about.

Wrapping Paper 

While the name might make you think that wrapping paper is recyclable, in most cases, it is not. A lot of wrapping paper includes additives such as glitter, dyes, and plastics that cannot be recycled. However, be sure to check the brand of wrapping paper that you are using, because some are recyclable or even compostable.  

Brown paper wrapping tied with red yarn and lights around the gift.

String Lights 

Broken string lights should never be put in a curbside recycling bin. String lights are a category of item known as “tanglers.” Tanglers can jam up the equipment at your municipal recycling facility, causing damage to the equipment and putting recycling facility employees in danger. Luckily, some towns and hardware stores have take-back programs for broken holiday lights. Check with your local stores and recycling facility to see what your options are.  

Round red, gold, and silver ornaments.

Broken ornaments 

Even if they are made of glass, broken ornaments cannot be recycled. If you’re crafty, however, there are many different DIY projects you can make with broken ornaments. Picture frames, mosaics, and even coasters are just some of the many ways to reuse your broken ornaments. If you don’t want to DIY, make sure you wrap the broken shards of the ornament in paper before throwing it in your garbage can in order to prevent your trash bag from ripping.  


Greeting cards 

Do you have a drawer full of old greeting cards that it’s time to say goodbye to? Whether or not you can recycle them depends on the greeting card. Cards made solely of paper can be recycled, even if they’ve been written on. Like with wrapping paper, cards that have additives like glitter, glossy photo paper, or plastic elements should be tossed in the garbage.  

Bottle of champagne in bucket with ice and glasses on blurred background, closeup.

Champagne bottles   

Bottles of champagne should be recycled, whether they are glass or plastic. Champagne corks  (as long as they are made of natural cork) can go into your compost! If you don’t have compost, corks make a great keepsake to remember your New Year’s celebrations. Write the new year or occasion on the cork and save them in a glass jar or bowl to look back on your memories.  

This list just scratches the surface of waste you might have left over after your holiday celebrations. By recycling, composting, and reusing your holiday decorations, you can make a difference in fighting America’s waste crisis. If you are ever unsure about whether something is recyclable, don’t just throw it in the recycling bin. Do your research with online resources like Recyclopedia. When all else fails, you can always call your local recycling facility to ask directly.  

Lastly, being conscious to prevent waste in the first place is one of the most sustainable choices you can make this time of year. Do your part to reduce waste ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about disposal later. Feeling inspired to have a lower-waste holiday? Watch this short video for tips on how to shop sustainably this holiday season