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Follow these tips from King County’s Solid Waste Division and there will be no waste at home for the holidays


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Follow these tips from King County’s Solid Waste Division and there will be no waste at home for the holidays


From trees to light strands, to gift wrap and post-feast food scraps, reducing waste during the holiday season can be a challenge. King County’s Solid Waste Division is here to help with lots of tips to reduce and recycle your holiday waste.


Having a great time this holiday season doesn’t mean you have to send a sleigh-full of garbage to the landfill. To help you plan a low-waste holiday season, King County Solid Waste Division offers these earth-friendly tips to reduce your holiday waste and recycle what’s left.

Low-waste gift ideas

There are lots of ways to prevent or reduce waste while giving great holiday gifts. Consider gifting experiences, such as fitness classes, or tickets to concerts or games. You can support small businesses with gift cards to local restaurants, bookstores, or gyms. We also have plenty of creative ideas online to give green by upcycling items around the house and turning them into great gifts.


Plan your holiday feast in advance to reduce food waste. If you’re celebrating with a big meal, take a quick headcount and use this handy guest-imator tool to make sure you don’t prepare too much food. You can also set aside containers, or bring your own if you’re not hosting, to make sure leftovers don’t go to waste. Find more food waste prevention tips at Food: Too Good to Waste.

Food – even rotten, post-feast scraps – can always be composted. The best way to compost right is to put food and food-soiled paper in the compost bin and keep plastic out. Plastic bags, containers, and packaging should never go in compost bins because they contaminate compost used on lawns and gardens. Check your local compost guidelines to ensure you're putting the right materials in your compost bin.

Holiday string lights

Whether you have a pile of burned-out lights or you’re planning to upgrade your lights to energy efficient LEDs next year – there are options for recycling holiday string lights. If you buy new holiday lights during after-Christmas sales, ask your retailer if they accept used lights, or visit one of the many light recycling locations in the Puget Sound region. Strings of lights cannot be recycled in a curbside bin.

Gift wrap

Reduce holiday waste by reusing wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, and bows that are still in good condition. You can also get creative and upcycle unexpected household items into gift wraps, tags, and bags. If your gift wraps are past their prime, most plain wrapping paper can go in a recycling container. A little tape is fine but remove big pieces. Glittery paper, coated paper, gift bags, and ribbons that can’t be used again should go in the garbage.

Foam packing materials

Styrofoam packing materials can’t be recycled in curbside bins, but many shipping centers will accept and reuse clean packing peanuts free of charge. Check King County’s “What do I do with…?” website to find recycling locations for foam packing peanuts and foam blocks.

Plastic wrap, bags, and film

Pallet wrap, shrink wrap, plastic mailers, and plastic grocery bags do not belong in curbside recycling because they get tangled in equipment at recycling facilities. Recycle clean plastics instead at one of many retail drop-off locations. While throwing plastic bags and wrap in the garbage is the least-desirable option, it's better to toss them out rather than contaminate other recyclables.


Give your Christmas tree new life as compost or wood chips. If you have residential yard waste collection service, many local haulers will pick up trees that are set out on the curb. King County will compost trees up to 8-feet-tall at the Bow Lake, Factoria, Shoreline, Vashon, and Enumclaw recycling and transfer stations and the Cedar Falls Drop Box for a $16 yard waste fee through the end of December, and for $18 starting in January. Taller trees can be cut to less than 8 feet and taken to the transfer stations.


If you got the latest and greatest gadgets in your stocking, be sure to recycle old electronics at a Take it Back Network location. They accept products such as computers, TVs, cell phones, and certain other household electronics. You can also recycle computers, monitors, TVs, and e-readers for free at E-Cycle Washington locations.

Recycle Right in the New Year

Still stumped about what’s recyclable? Check with your local hauler, or use King County’s “What do I do with…?” website, to make sure you’re recycling right. Putting something in recycling that doesn’t belong there could send the entire load to the landfill. If you’re ever unsure, uncertain, or in doubt about where something goes, the best option is to throw it out. Check out King County’s Recycle Right site for more information on home recycling.

Relevant links

For more information, contact:

Joseph Basile, Solid Waste Division, 206-848-0496