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December 23, 2006

Recycling Christmas Wrapping paper doesn't have to be trashed

Rip, crumple, toss. Rip, crumple, toss. It's a Christmas ritual for most families.

Rip open the presents, crumple the pretty paper into a ball, toss it in a big trash bag and haul it out to the curb, where it eventually disappears in the back of a garbage truck.

Americans will dispose of an estimated 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags during the holiday season, and almost all of it can be recycled. In fact, in almost every North Shore community - except for Salem, Peabody and Boxford - all Christmas wrap can be recycled, as long as it doesn't glitter or shine.

Ribbons and bows cannot be recycled because they aren't paper products.

"If it rips, it's paper," and should be put in the recycling bin, said Mary Rodrick, co-chairwoman of the Beverly Recycling Committee. The metal strands in foil and metallic papers prevent them from being torn, and they cannot be recycled.

The glut of paper goods begins well before Christmas. In the United States alone, an estimated 2.65 billion greeting cards were sent to friends and loved ones with holiday greetings. Add the envelopes and the stamps, and that's a lot of trees cut down.

"There's just so much of it," said Jessica Wozniak, executive director of MassRecycle, a statewide coalition dedicated to recycling issues.

The list goes on. The cardboard rolls the wrapping paper is wound around, the tissue paper, gift boxes and tags, the New Year's party favors, calendars and catalogs - and that's just the recyclable paper products.

The plastic bubble packages so many products come in these days? Once you manage to get them open, they can be recycled. Even that most enduring of seasonal icons, the Christmas tree, can be recycled in some communities, where it is turned into compost.

So how is a harried parent who wants to be environmentally responsible supposed to cope with the mountain of paper trash on Christmas morn? If it's in a plastic bag, it won't be picked up for recycling, so paper bags are the green alternative.

Ipswich Public Works Director Bob Gravino noted that many department stores hand out oversize shopping bags during the holidays, and they hold several times as much as grocery store bags.

Still, the average family would need a lot of even those bigger bags to hold every balled up remnant of Christmas, and Danvers' Recycling Coordinator Pamela Irwin said she tries to think like a resident. On Christmas morning, kids aren't thinking about recycling, and their parents are just trying to keep up with the flood of paper.

"If some of it goes the other way (to trash rather than recycling)," she said, "oh, well."

Christmas wrap recycling at a glance

Christmas wrapping paper can be recycled in the following communities, as long as it does not contain any foil, metal or glitter:











These communities do not recycle wrapping paper:




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