Recycling at the end of the Christmas cycle


Grayson Salomon ’22

Many trees have began appearing on street corners as people begin to toss them out.

T Sall ’21, Staff Reporter

Shiny, sparkly wrapping paper is extremely attractive to gift-givers during the holiday season. But what should we do with it and the decorated tree that usually goes with it? 

While many people are starting to change small parts of their lives in order to help reduce waste on Earth, many people aren’t aware that the wrapping paper available in so many stores is actually not recyclable and clogs up recycling centers. 

All that glitters is not recyclable. (Clara Liu ’23)

Jocelyn Leon-Guerrero ’21 realizes that there are way more decorations that aren’t recyclable than are. She said, “I was aware about the metallic ones. For example there is a marble-looking gift wrap that I have seen and I know not to put it in the recycling bin.” 

Manufacturers will often put foil on the paper to give it a shiny, laminated look or add glitter or any textured material, which unfortunately clogs up the recycling systems and wastes other materials in the process. For example, those commonly used glossy gift bags and glittery bows are very wasteful. 

What can consumers do to continue wrapping presents in cute, aesthetically pleasing ways, while maintaining sustainability and eco friendly materials? 

Mikayla Hale ’21 said she already uses items around the house such as shopping bags, reusable tote bags, cardboard boxes, colored plastic containers, and much more. Gift givers can even go the extra step to paint on it or customize it, use an old book’s pages or tissue boxes, and fabric wrapping/scrap fabric, which could double as a bandana.

RSP Coordinator Stephanie Lundin explained how color-coordinated wrapping paper is a huge part of family traditions in her house. Since there is usually a lot left over, she is aware that not everything is recyclable, so she buys paper that ensures so with a label. Lundin crafts a lot and has used old Trader Joe’s bags as a supplement to reuse items that would have otherwise been thrown out after one use. 

Another holiday leftover that can easily fulfill its recycling destiny are Christmas trees. While most are tossed to the curb for garbage collectors each year, there is so much more that could be done to recycle them. 

Trees were quickly, but not always properly, discarded shortly after Christmas. (Grayson Salomon ’22)

For example, those who want to freshen up their garden can send it through a wood chipper to make mulch or add it to the soil to boost some nutrients. Anyone can come up with tons of craft ideas, but the easiest way to reuse the wood is by making firewood out of the trunk on non-Spare the Air Days. 

If you want to leave it to the experts, according to, Recology will pick up any “unflocked” trees between Jan. 4 and 15 free of charge. The website instructs San Franciscans: “Trees must be natural, undecorated, and unflocked; remove all tinsel, decorations, plastic bags, stands, and lights; if your tree measures more than 6 feet tall, cut it in half before putting it on the curb; trees must be placed alongside your green composting bin on your regular composting collection day.”

According to ABC7 News, Acting Public Works Director Alaric Degrafinried said, “Not only does this ensure that discarded holiday trees will be put to good use as earth-friendly mulch, but disposing of them properly also helps keep our neighborhoods clean and safe and reduces fire hazards.”