'Tis the season... for extra recycling

The remnants of used gift wrap and ribbons sit under a tree.

By: Bailey Grimmett

Once the holiday hustle and bustle slows down and the presents have been unwrapped, you’re somehow left with a mountain of excess materials such as cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, Styrofoam and other packaging materials. You’re not alone! In fact, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases an estimated 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day!  But, did you know that a majority of holiday wrapping material can be recycled and/or repurposed? Check out our list of alternative ways to dispose of excess holiday gifting materials.


Styrofoam is not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart, but you can take these items to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center, where they will be recycled safely and properly. You can also use the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept this material.

Tip: Packing peanuts cannot be recycled at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, but many local mailing centers will accept this material for recycling. 


Cardboard is accepted in your blue recycling cart. Break down and collapse the cardboard before placing the material in your cart.

Wrapping paper/gift wrap

Plain wrapping paper is accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, wrapping paper with glitter or foil is not accepted in your blue recycling cart; consider reusing this material for future gifts or other creative projects (otherwise, it is trash). 

Tape left on the wrapping paper can be recycled (but try to use as little as possible while wrapping your gifts!)

Tip: Before purchasing new wrapping paper, consider wrapping your gifts with reusable materials such as newspaper or using reusable gift bags this holiday season.

Ribbon and bows

Ribbon and bows are not accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, these items are the easiest to reuse, so hold onto them and reuse them for future gifting. You can also find local organizations that will accept these materials.

Bubble wrap, plastic wrap and other plastic film

Stretchy, flexible materials such as bubble wrap and plastic wrap are not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart. However, you can take this material to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center; the material must be clean and dry before being dropped off. Additionally, local retailers will accept these items for recycling -- use our handy tool to find a location near you.

Extra Recycling

If you find that your blue recycling cart is overflowing with recyclable materials this holiday season, don’t worry! Place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. If you have excess cardboard, please cut or fold the cardboard into 2 feet by 2 feet piles, and tie them into manageable bundles with string or twine. Place the bundles next to your recycling cart. Extra recyclables will be picked up at no extra change. If you find that you often have extra recycling, you can call 512-494-9400 to request an additional blue cart, free of charge.