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How to Dispose of Common Holiday Items

Dec 08, 2022


The Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) wants to help residents better determine how to properly dispose of items commonly found during the holiday season. Extra packaging from deliveries and gift-giving and increased food consumption are some of the many ways waste piles up this time of year. Between November 2021 and December 2021, the tonnage of single-stream recycling accepted by the ACUA from residential recycling increased by nearly 14%.

The ever-rising popularity of online shopping has led to extra packaging. When that special package you’ve been waiting for comes in the mail, be sure to dispose of the packaging properly. Cardboard boxes are recyclable and should be broken down as much as possible. Paper envelopes commonly holding holiday cards are also good to place in the recycling bin.


Plastic mailer packaging, commonly sent from Amazon, cannot be recycled, and should be placed in the trash. Plastic film and bubble wrap are not recyclable curbside; however, many grocery stores accept these materials in drop-off bins for residents looking to recycle them. Other common items that arrive in the mail that should be placed in the trash include styrofoam and packing peanuts.


The ACUA asks residents to throw wrapping paper, tissue paper and bows in the trash. Many types of wrapping paper include metallic or glitter which will contaminate the recycling stream. Many are also filled with flame-retardant chemicals.

Residents deciding whether to recycle plastic toy packaging need to look a little deeper before recycling. The only plastic items that should be recycled are containers that have the numbers 1, 2, or 5 inside the recycling symbol.

Paper holiday cards can be recycled. Cards that have special decorations such as metal foil, glitter or musical components, should be placed in the trash.

New Jersey law prohibits electronics, such as computers, cell phones, monitors, laptops, and televisions from going in household trash or recycling. If you receive new electronics this year and are looking to get rid of old devices, dispose of them safely. Electronic items that still work can often be donated to Goodwill, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore at the Shore. If the electronic items do not work, residents should first check to see if their municipality has an electronic recycling program. The Atlantic County 4H Club also hosts a free Electronic Recycling Fundraiser on the third Saturday of every month at their location in Mays Landing, New Jersey, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information, call 609-625-0056.

Keep tangly items like Christmas lights out of the recycling.

One item ACUA wants to ensure residents keep out of the recycling bin are Christmas lights. Tangly items like lights are a nightmare for recycling sorting facilities. The lights get caught in the machinery at the facilities and then need to be untangled by the employees working the line. If your lights are no longer working, please place them in the trash.

When the holiday season is over and you need to dispose of your Christmas tree, you have a few options. Real Christmas trees can be disposed of as yard waste, and ACUA will collect them in towns where we provide yard waste collection. If ACUA does not pick up yard waste in your area, contact your town’s Public Works Department for more information. Another option is for residents to bring Christmas trees to local farms for disposal. Artificial trees are considered bulky waste and cannot be recycled. Consider giving them to someone else for reuse or dispose of them as trash.

ACUA has many channels for residents to learn how to properly dispose of items they have questions about. Residents can use the online Waste Wizard tool and type in items for more information at ACUA’s recycling guidelines are listed at Residents can also contact ACUA with questions by calling (609) 272-6950 during hours of operation or using the live support chat at