ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Holidays are a particularly great time to talk about recycling, but when it comes to recycling things like wrapping paper and other holiday packaging essentials it can be confusing as to what should be thrown out versus recycled. With that in mind, here are some of the main do’s and don’ts when it comes to holiday recycling courtesy of the Monroe County Eco Park.

Did you know Americans generate over 25% more waste during the holidays than any other time of the year?

That translates to a million tons per week more of trash and recycling that needs to be managed. Director of Environmental Services Michael Garland tells me there are plenty of resources out there including the Monroe County EcoPark that can guide you in the right direction. 

“During the holiday season we’re generating a lot more packing material, right, that can be paper and cardboard, all that material is readily recyclable at the curb. There’s a lot of plastic materials that are used as a part of packing whether that’s plastic bags, plastic film, that material can be brought back to a retailer, like you bring your plastic bags, or it can be brought here to the eco park and it will be properly managed,” Michael says.

Traditional Christmas paper if it can tear, or any paper product such as tissue paper can be recycled even if it has tape on it, but things like gift tags, ribbons and bows or Christmas wrapping paper that has foil on it cannot be recycled. However, a lot of these things can be reused.

“We don’t want residents to “wish-cycle.” particularly this time of year. There’s information online. If you have an Alexa smart speaker you can utilize that now through both the Monroe county recycling and ask questions, but when in doubt, throw it out, if they’re not sure, because we want to minimize contamination,” Michael says. 

Other items such as broken holiday lights, plastic bags or film, bubble wrap, and cardboard are recyclable and should not be thrown away. Knowing what’s recyclable and what’s not is crucial in minimizing the risk for contamination, and preventing the entire batch of recycling from being landfilled.

After January 1st there is no charge for electronic disposal in New York State, and the Eco Park hasn’t been charging since November.


The Alexa app can now be used to make it even easier for residents to recycle. Just say, “open Monroe County recycling” to any device that has Alexa, and you can ask questions directly to the application, and graphics can be brought up if the device has interface for it.

The Eco Park does NOT accept the following:

  • Packing that has paper on the outside, or plastic on the inside. 
  • Bows, ribbons, gift tags
  • Foil or metallic wrapping paper 

The Eco Park DOES accept:

Real and artificial Christmas trees (real trees can also be ground or composted unto usable materials) Artificial trees will go into the recycling area and will have the plastic and metal materials recovered from them.

Note that towns and villages in the city of Rochester will start collecting real trees that are brought out to the curb, or they can be brought back to central location to be process, and residents are encouraged to check their local town and village websites for more info 

Lithium Ion or NiCad batteries should be brought in so they can be properly disposed of. Alkaline batteries can always go in the trash.