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Zero Waste
Zero Waste

Tis the Season to Recycle

Happy Holidays DC! Did you know that household waste increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to New Years?  Here are some tips to reduce holiday waste being sent to landfills.

Holiday Reduce & Reuse Tips

  1. Choose decorations that are natural. Decorate with gourds, pine boughs, and other items found in nature. Then, when you're done with them, these materials can be composted with your other yard waste
  2. Use recyclable paper bags from grocery stores to wrap presents, or reuse gift bags from last year. 
  3. Gift experiences instead of stuff! Tickets to a show, dinner for two, or massage coupons are all great gift ideas that require no packaging. The only thing left behind is happiness and memories of a good time. So think outside the gift box and give some fun this holiday season.
  4. Going holiday shopping? Leave a reusable bag in your car or at your office for impromptu shopping trips.
  5. Baking cookies or other goodies this holiday season? Package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Homemade goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
  6. Use recycling signs to let your guests know where to properly dispose of their wastes at your holiday party.

Waste Less Wrapping Paper - A Guide to What's Recyclable

Recycle Wrapping Paper Guide

Only glossy and plain wrapping paper can be recycled in your curbside bin. Tissue paper, along with metallic and wax-coated paper are not recyclable and should be reused or thrown away. Remember paperboard and cardboard products are recyclable, including gift boxes and wrapping paper tubes.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to get creative. If you have leftover gift bags from last year, reuse them, or try using newspaper, brown paper bags, or even a piece of cloth that you no longer need. You can even forgo wrapping gifts all together!

Empty, Flatten and Recycle Shipping and Gift Boxes

Tis the season to recycle cardboard

Recycle your shipping and gift boxes. Whether you buy gifts at the store, order online, or make them yourself, remember to empty, flatten and recycle your packaging and boxes (bonus points if you saved any gift boxes or bags from next year).

Reducing Holiday Food Waste

Tis the season to recycle while cooking

Holidays are all about cooking delicious meals. This holiday, think about how you can reduce wasted food in your kitchen. 

  • Buy ingredients in bulk and use reusable containers when possible. Consider making your own broth using leftovers in your refrigerator.
  • Check with your guests beforehand to see if they’d like to take leftovers home with them, and cook to that amount. Make sure you have plenty of containers, aluminum foil, and storage items to pack everything up.
  • Clean out your freezer to make room for everything you’re saving. Your freezer is a magic “pause” button for your food - if stored properly, you can safely freeze holiday leftovers for months.
  • Collect your food scraps and bring them to your local Food Waste Drop-Off site to be composted. 

Pro tip: Use the Guest-imator when shopping to ensure you make just the right amount for your holiday dinners.

Keep Tanglers Out of the Bin (No Holiday Lights or Ribbons Please)

Keep Tanglers out of the Bin

Did you know string items such as holiday lights ribbons & bows can get tangled in recycling sorting machinery? Remember to keep them out of your recycling cart. For alternative recycling and safe disposal options for holiday lights, search the DC’s What Goes Where Tool.

How to Recycle Your Holiday Tree

Holiday trees and greenery can be given a new life by being composted or chipped for mulch. 

Collection for DPW-serviced households. 

  • Who: Residents who receive collection service from DPW (single-family homes and apartment buildings containing three or fewer housing units) are eligible for holiday tree and greenery collection. Households not serviced by DPW (for example, larger apartment buildings) should consult with their landlord/property owner for collection procedures or visit a DPW drop-off.
  • Where: Residents should place their trees and greenery in the tree box area or curbside in front of their home.
  • How: When setting these items out for collection, residents should remove all ornaments and lights. Do not place trees and greenery in a bag.
  • Why: Trees and greenery collected through March 2, 2024, will be composted. District residents can collect up to five 32-gallon bags of the free compost year-round while supplies last at the Fort Totten Transfer Station. Residents must bring their own bags.
  • When: Composting of holiday trees and greenery not guaranteed after March 3. After that date, residents can place holiday trees and greenery at their normal point of collection for trash and recycling. The items will be picked up with the trash as space in DPW trucks permits.

Holiday Tree and Greenery Drop-Off

Residents can also drop their holiday trees and/or greenery at one of two locations from January 3, through March 2, 2024:

  • 201 Bryant Street NW (Roll off Box)
  • Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert Street NW)
  • 2700 South Capital St., SE (Roll off Box)

Pro tip: Branches and needles can also be "recycled" at your home. Simply chop them up for composting, or spread them under trees and shrubs as a temporary winter mulch.

How to Dispose of Your Artificial Tree

Pro tip: If your artificial Christmas tree is still in usable condition, consider donating it or posting it on your neighborhood list-serv, Craigslist, your local Freecycle group, or similar places. Visit for more information. 

  • Households Serviced by DC DPW: If your trash is regularly collected by DPW, request a bulk trash pickup for your artificial holiday tree.
  • Households Serviced by Private Haulers: If you or your building uses a private trash service, check with your collection company for instructions.

How to Dispose of Your Wreaths and Roping

Wreaths and roping are typically bound together with wire. Wire damages our shredding equipment and contaminates mulch.

If you can separate the greens from their wire, natural wreaths and garland can be composted or mulched with your holiday tree. Just place it in front the home on your scheduled collection day.

Or you can gather them in a paper bag and schedule a yard waste collection by calling 311 or visiting Otherwise, dispose of your wreaths and roping as trash.

More questions?

If you have more questions on how best to recycle, reuse, or safely dispose of your waste, search the What Goes Where tool for more tips and suggestions.