What goes where: Your guide to sorting Christmas waste

So you've opened the presents and your living room is a sea of wrapping paper, ribbons and cardboard.

Now what?

Island Waste Management hopes you will resist the temptation to throw it all together and drop it at the curb.

After all, nobody likes to see that orange rejection sticker on their bins or blue bags.

CBC's Jay Scotland spoke with Heather Myers of Island Waste Management about what to do with some common Christmas items.

She said the corporation doesn't know if zero-waste efforts will mean it will take in less trash in 2019, but said it "would be good" if that happens. 

Wrapping paper

It's compost unless it has plastic or foil on it. Then it's waste.

Greeting cards

You throw those out? Nobody will find out, unless they look in your green bin, which is where they are supposed to go.

Randell Porter

Gift bags

If they're shiny with a plastic coating, they're waste.

But, Myers said, "if you have a gift bag that is brown paper with brown paper handles, that can be recycled so it can go with your corrugated cardboard or blue bag number one."

Brown packaging paper

Recyclable, can go with corrugated cardboard or in a blue bag.

Metro Vancouver

Ribbons, bows and tinsel

Waste, waste and waste.

Environmental Defence

Tissue paper

Compost, even if it has traces of glitter.

"We will accept that small amount of contamination on it," Myers said.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Bubble wrap

No number on it? Put it in the waste. (After you've popped it, of course).


Boxboard? Think cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes.

"The difference is with corrugated cardboard you have the two flat layers with the wavy layer in the centre," Myers said.

Put boxboard in the compost, while its cousin corrugated cardboard goes in recycling.

Clementine boxes

It might be tempting to put these in the compost, but don't. They go in waste. The clementines and their peelings can go in compost, though.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Christmas lights

If there is a plastic cover over the lights, and it doesn't have a recycling number on it, pull it off and put it in waste.

The rest goes in the recycling blue bag, bulb or no bulb.

"If you can get the bulb out, take the bulbs out and take them to the Waste Watch drop-off centre for light bulb recycling," Myers said. "If they won't come out, leave them with the string of lights and put them in blue bag number two for recycling."

Shane Hennessey/CBC

Christmas tree

Curbside collection for Christmas trees starts Jan. 6 this year. And keep in mind, Myers said, it may not be collected on the same day as regular garbage pickup.

Anyone whose religious traditions will be affected by the pickup date are encouraged to call IWMC for arrangements. For example, some Islanders may be celebrating Orthodox Christmas Jan. 7.

Here are the rules for Christmas trees: No ornaments on it, no tinsel, no heavier than 50 pounds, no longer than eight feet. If it's longer than eight feet, you can cut it in half.

"Make sure the tree isn't stuck in snow or covered with snow so the drivers can access it," Myers said.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

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