Many are getting ready for the holidays with piles of cardboard boxes, plenty of wrapping paper and ribbon, and a new string of twinkly lights after the one that was stored in the hallway closet died immediately after it was plugged in. 

The holidays give people a reason to gather with friends and family, but they also turbo-boost waste material. Households in the United States increase the amount of trash they generate by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once the holiday cheer winds down, of course, all that waste has to go somewhere.

That’s why the City of San Antonio’s solid waste management department is reminding residents what can be recycled goes in the blue bin, what can be composted goes in the organic green bin and what has to be thrown away goes into the brown trash bin. (Spoiler: wreaths can’t be composted if they contain florist wire.)

You can recycle the following clean items:

  • Paper mail. That includes catalogs, flyers, coupons and promotional postcards.
  • Cardboard boxes. Don’t forget to flatten out the box before recycling. Anything too large can be taken to one of the city’s four Bulky Drop-Off Centers.
  • Metal cans
  • Glass bottles
  • Plastic bottles and jugs
  • Boxes that contained dry goods
  • Plain wrapping paper without embellishments
Cushion air pouches, delivery envelopes with bubble wrap and packing peanuts must all be discarded in the brown trash bin. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Discard in the trash bin:

  • Styrofoam packing
  • Packing peanuts
  • Cushion air pouches 
  • Delivery envelopes with bubble wrap
  • Wrapping paper and seasonal cards made with foil or glitter
  • Items that can tangle, such as ribbon or cords
  • Glass ornaments
  • Hard plastics such as toys or decorations
  • Clothing, although if the clothes are still in good shape, you can donate them to your favorite thrift store
  • Live wreaths and garlands held together with florist wire
  • Bones from meats, like ribs

Compost via green bin:

  • Small live Christmas trees, as long as they are cut up and do not keep the lid from closing. Large live trees are accepted at the city’s Brush Recycling Centers.
  • Flowers and decorative plants, with the plastic or metal container and excess soil or rock removed.
  • Food and table scraps such as peels, rinds, husks, nuts, cores, trimmings, baked goods, shells and cobs.
  • Food-soiled paper including pizza boxes, coffee filters, tea bags and paper to-go food packaging.
Strands of electric lights, electric toys and machines, and batteries should be disposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Center. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Take to a Household Hazardous Waste drop-off center:

  • All batteries, including Coin Cell, Lead-Acid, Ni-Cd, Ni-Mh, LiPo, Ion, Lithium and alkaline batteries.
  • Strands of electric lights
  • Electric toys and machines
  • Printer cartridges
  • Cooking oil
  • Paint
  • Chemicals
  • Fireworks are not accepted. Please take old or used fireworks to any fire station for disposal.

Got questions about another item? Check out sarecycles.org.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.