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Cleaning up after Santa: what to know about getting rid of holiday waste

Posted at 6:13 PM, Dec 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-27 19:13:01-05
  • With many people recycling after the holidays, it's important to keep in mind that things like wrapping paper, holiday lights and batteries are not recyclable.
  • Some recycling centers do not take certain waste.
  • Video shows information from local recycling centers.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story.)

After the holidays, many of us are left with a lot of boxes, wrapping paper, and old string lights.

I’m your Fond du Lac neighborhood reporter Margaret Cahill and I checked out recycling centers in both Fond du Lac and Outagamie counties to find out what you need to know about getting rid of your holiday waste.

Those gifts may have looked pretty under the tree, but Jordan Hiller at Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste Disposal says wrapping paper is one of the biggest “no”s of post-holiday recycling.

“Some of it has glitter; it has a little bit of plastic in it,” Hiller said. “And unfortunately at the end of the day, when it goes to those paper mills, it just turns into a gookie absolute mess for them.”

Another issue? Holiday lights, which can cause issues at the recycling plant.

“Holiday lights are huge tanglers within this facility,” Hiller said. “We have a lot of gears and when they come in, they actually get wrapped up on these shafts and we have to send sorting staff in there to pull them out.”

But, you can bring in the lights to their resource recovery center free of charge; they just don’t belong in curbside recycling.

Independent recyclers, like Marcoe Recycling in Fond du Lac, can break down things like TVs and offer people money in exchange for aluminum cans.

“There's people out there that store [the cans] right now,” owner Dan Marcoe said. “They hang on to them until the price goes up.”

But, Marcoe says many people try to bring in things like cardboard that this particular facility doesn’t process.

“If they see something, they can call to find out if it's right or not,” Marco said.

Those things may be better for curbside recycling.

“We'll see a large influx of cardboard this time of year,” Hiller said.

To find out whether your holiday waste is recyclable, you can check with your local recycling center, go online, or download the app “Better Bin” on your phone.