Recycling Tips for the Holidays with Ornament Craft

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With the holiday season looking a bit different this year, shopping online for the items we need has become the norm and gifting has turned into shipping presents to friends and family in many cases. This also means there will be more “stuff” to recycle or throw away. Wrapping paper, cards, boxes, bags, Christmas trees, ribbons, decorations, old toys, batteries, electronic waste, and worn-out clothes – the list of stuff goes on and on.

Recycling is just as important during the holiday season as it is all year long. Recycling conserves our natural resources and gives items a new life. All the extra holiday items need to be disposed of correctly so that we don’t harm the environment. 

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When it comes to protecting the environment we all want to recycle, but recycling incorrectly reduces the value of the materials we put in our blue bins. The cleaner our recycling stream is the more valuable it is! So it is important to make sure that the whole family knows the right and wrong ways to recycle, during the holidays and all year long

I visited, OCRRA is the local not-for-profit public benefit corporation that handles our trash and recycling, to learn from the experts about recycling during the holiday season. Together we can all “Save the World a Little Each Day”.

Holiday Items That Can Go in the Recycling Bin

Recyclables should never be put in bags in your recycling bin – items must be loose in your bin in order to be recycled. Most paper and cardboard holiday products can be recycled. The only exception is if the items are metallic, foil, or have glitter. A glossy finish is fine, as long as it isn’t metallic or glittery. So most of the following can go in your recycling bin:

  • Greeting cards and envelopes
  • Gift boxes or gift bags
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Catalogs and magazines
  • Wrapping paper
cards and wrapping paper for recycling

Holiday Items that are Recyclable but not in your recycling bin

This is the category that always seems to cause the most confusion! There are a number of items that are recyclable, but not as part of the curbside recycling program. These items have to be recycled at other locations. Placing them in the recycling bin slows down the process and causes problems. Search to find recycling locations!

Film Plastics

The most important thing on this list is film plastics. This includes plastic overwraps, shipping pouches, bubble wrap, and most importantly plastic bags. When these are placed in recycling bins they can become caught in the sorting machinery and cause all kinds of issues.

But these plastics are recyclable, and in New York can be dropped off in containers at stores that use plastic bags. Most grocery stores, pharmacies, and big-box stores have a container for these plastics right out front.

It is also important to remember that your recyclables should NEVER be bagged. Instead, place items in the recycling bin loose – and recycle clean plastic bags at local retailers.

Christmas Trees

Here in Onondaga County, OCRRA accepts Christmas trees to be dropped off for composting for free. In addition, some towns and villages will pick them up. Check for all the details and to find somewhere to take your tree after the holidays.

Electronics and Batteries

Electronics and batteries are also recyclable. OCRRA has battery drop off stations at all Onondaga County Wegmans, Green Hills Market and various hardware stores. New York state law requires manufacturers to “take-back” unwanted electronics. Check for details on how to recycle your old electronics. They have a useful searchable database to make it easy to figure out how to recycle lots of common household items.

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are pretty and fun decoration, but the should not go in your recycle bin. However there are ways to recycle them. In Onondaga county Lowes usually offers a Christmas light recycling program and Bruin in Liverpool and Bodow in Syracuse do also. There are also mail in programs for recycling. Check for the most up-to-date details since recycling lights requires some planning and preparation.

Items to Donate

Many of us clean out our old clothes and toys around the holidays to make room for new presents. These items can be donated to charitable organizations like the Salvation Army and Rescue Mission. 

Holiday Items to Throw Out

Unfortunately, not everything can be recycled. If you have cards, envelopes, gift wrap, or gift bags or boxes that are metallic, foil, or have glitter they should be reused or thrown out. In addition styrofoam, ribbons and bows also need to be discarded after use.

bows and Christmas ribbon

Other Ways to Help

In addition to recycling correctly, there are other ways we can help. One way to help is to not use holiday wrappings that can’t be recycled. Presents look beautiful and will be appreciated even if they aren’t wrapped in sparkly foil paper!

Another way to help is to reuse boxes and bags from previous seasons. Most cardboard boxes can be rewrapped a few times and bags can be reused. You can also buy fabric bags that can be used over and over again.

Making Recycled Holiday Crafts

Making ornaments or holiday decorations out of recycled materials can be a fun holiday activity. It gets kids involved and enthusiastic about recycling. Here are some things you could make with recyclables this holiday season!

Or check out this new craft that uses up scraps of wrapping paper.

ornament covered with wrapping paper decoupage

Wrapping Paper Ornaments

These ornaments are made from the scraps of paper that are always leftover after wrapping. Small squares and strips of paper that get cut off during the wrapping process usually just end up in the recycle bin. But in this easy craft, they are decoupaged onto old, worn-out ornaments to give them new life.

supplies for making a wrapping paper ornament


  • Wrapping paper scraps
  • Glue (We used glittery glue to make the ornament sparkle)
  • Brush
  • Old glass ornaments

For this craft, we used old ornaments that would normally be thrown out. They had paint peeling off and were no longer bright and sparkly. This craft is a way to make them look new again and upcycle them. Of course, you could also use new ornaments if you don’t have worn-out ones.
Check out the collage for pictures of the numbered steps.

collage of steps in making a wrapping paper ornament


  1. Cut the wrapping paper into strips about ¼ inch in width of various lengths. You can use one style of wrapping paper or combine a bunch of colorful papers as I did.
  2. Use a brush to spread the glue all over the ornament. 
  3. Wrap the paper around the ornament and stick it down.
  4. Add more glue and keep sticking the paper down until the ornament is covered.
  5. We overlapped the paper all over which gave it a fun holiday patchwork look.
  6. Add a final layer of glue over the entire ball to make sure everything sticks and let it dry.

Once the glue dries you will have a fun and festive holiday ornament for your tree!

ornament hanging on a tree

Hi, I’m Anne!

I love to cook and I want to share my recipes with you. I believe cooking should be approachable and fun, not a chore. I want to make simple recipes using everyday ingredients that you can make again and again, whether it is for a busy weeknight, a summer cookout or a special dessert. Read more...

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