Have a green Christmas: what NOT to recycle

The gifts are unwrapped, and now piles of wrapping paper and packaging have to be cleaned up.  You might think the most environmentally friendly thing to do is bundle all that festive gift wrap into the recycling bin - but most of it should actually be thrown out instead!

Ribbon and bows cannot be recycled, and neither can cards, boxes, bags, or gift wrap decorated with glitter or metallic accents.  If you do toss it in the recycling bin, you risk contaminating the entire load and sending it to a landfill instead of the recycling center.

Foam packing material is another thing that many of us have in excess around the holiday season, especially after un-boxing an expensive piece of technology.  You can't leave packing peanuts or foam blocks on the curb for recycling pickup, but you can make special arrangements for a pickup in Seattle, or drop it off somewhere specifically equipped to deal with more complicated recycling.  You can find a list of King County options here.

When you're ready to say goodbye to the Christmas tree, you can recycle that too.  "Live" trees without any flocking or tinsel can be left on the curb for pickup on specific days in late December and early January.  Each city has a different schedule, so check out the list below for specifics:

King County

Snohomish County 

Pierce County

Thurston County

Kitsap County

One more thing that can be recycled: Christmas lights!  They're full of copper wire, which can be re-used for new electronics.  Some local hardware stores offer holiday recycling programs, or you can mail them to a national program.  Click here to see some of the options.