The Holiday Are Done! What Should You Do With All That Leftover Plastic?

No matter how ecological you try to be over the holidays, it’s just about impossible to avoid plastic waste. The gift bags, boxes, bows, ribbons, tape, the gift wrap, and the packages the gifts come in, it’s never-ending. The Holiday Are Done! What Should You Do With All That Leftover Plastic?

I always have the best intention at heart and try to be gentle when asking family and friends not to give me gifts with tons of packaging, but it does not always go my way, I still end up getting unexpected gifts that come in plastic packaging and or wrapped in it!

If you are like me and you end up with a few unwanted things hanging around here is what you can do with them.

Canadians will throw out 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags this Christmas season

Plastic wrapping paper, gift wrap and ribbons
I actually keep these to use on other gifts and since they can’t be recycled reusing them is a good way to keep them out of landfills. But if you are worried where they will end up when they leave your home consider donating them to schools or community centers for art projects.  You can also look at websites like

In a preview blog post, I wrote about how Cardboard From Online Shopping Overloading the Recycling Industry.

Plastic Bubble wrap, peanuts and air pillows
These are the bain of my existence! I work in the TV industry and get packages daily containing these items. I try to reuse them but ultimately they will end up in the garbage.

Aside from re-using them, I suggest sending them back to the manufacturer with a note explaining why you are sending them back and asking them to consider more sustainable options. Please don’t put these items into the recycling bin, they cannot be recycled and are a real issue for the facility.

Packaging manufacturers like Sealed Air have mail-in recycling programs for their products. Just make sure to stick to their directions so the material is processed correctly.

Plastic items for kids
BPA is present in many kids’ items like toys, plates etc. BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can be harmful to your kid’s health. If you get a plastic gift and you are not sure, you can return it. If you didn’t get a gift receipt, see if the store will exchange it.

You can also donate it. This does pose a bit of a conundrum because you probably don’t want t to donate toxic kids toys to a thrift shop. This is a decision you will have to make.

To figure out if the plastic does contain BPA looks for the #3 or the #7 on the bottom. #3 plastic is PVC and most likely will contain BPA. #7 is an unknown plastic, meaning it’s a mix and might contain BPA. Plastic toys can’t be recycled; you can drop them off at a local community environment day. Check with your local municipality.

Christmas cards
As long as the card and envelope are made of plain paper — that includes heavy card stock and shiny paper — you can recycle them.

If the card has glitter, ribbon, foil, metal charms, or felt cut-outs on it, you’ll have to remove them before tossing the card in your recycling bin, as most recycling centers won’t accept cards with these materials attached.

Is the card a singing card? Does it have a battery? See if you can remove it and use it in another device in your home. If you can’t, it’s considered household hazardous waste and needs to be dropped of at a special facility.

Donate them! St. Jude’s Ranch for Children collects your old used cards and uses them for their Recycled Card Program recycles them into new holiday and greeting cards. The new cards are sold in packs of ten and retail for $10 with the proceeds going to the hospital.

You can reuse them by transforming them into smaller cards or even gift tags.

Tree Lights
Don’t throw out the lights. They fall under a recycling light fixtures program and can be dropped off at a recycling depot for free. They can’t be recycled through the city’s pick up.

There are a number of ways the Recycling Council of Ontario recommends disposing of CLF lights:
drop off burned lights at your municipal waste depot or hazardous waste drop-off event; retailers that may accept burned-out CFLs include RONA, Canadian Tire and Ikea; businesses looking to properly dispose of compact fluorescent lights and tubes are encouraged to visit their website directly.

Fake Christmas trees
Fake trees are made from PVC and can’t be recycled. It’s best to opt for a real tree. You can read more about why it’s important in my tree guide.

The Holiday Are Done! What Should You Do With All That Leftover Plastic?

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