Can You Recycle Christmas Packages? Yes, But . . .

Northwest Iowa — So you’ve got all that wrapping paper and boxes from Christmas. What should you do with it all? You know you shouldn’t just throw it in the garbage . . .

We talked with Larry Oldenkamp, who’s the manager where they accept almost all of northwest Iowa’s recycling — The Northwest Iowa Solid Waste Agency, north of Hospers. He says they accept recycling and trash from haulers and municipalities in Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux Counties as well as several communities in Clay County and the City of Akron in Plymouth County.

Oldenkamp says most of what people throw away after a Christmas party is recyclable.

Since Christmas cards and letters are made out of paper, those are recyclable. He says that cardboard and paperboard (think the type of material used for pop and beer or cereal boxes) are recyclable too.

But he says some of the cardboard to be recycled in the United States, including some cardboard sent to their facility from northwest Iowa homes and businesses — actually goes to China before it’s recycled.

And he says China is cracking down on contaminants in cardboard bundles sent to them. It seems that there are a lot of contaminants that get sent with cardboard. One of the things they see a lot is the packing materials like styrofoam, plastic bags, and packing peanuts, as well as ribbons and bows being sent right out in the cardboard box. He says that’s bad because if it’s not noticed, China could send a whole load back, and that is upsetting the recycling industry.

Of course, packing materials are only part of the problem. Since our recyclables are co-mingled, all kinds of other stuff — even non-recyclable stuff — sometimes makes it through the sorting process and gets mixed in the bundles sent to China. So when you recycle that box from the online superstore, make sure you don’t send it with the packing material inside. For that matter, they’d prefer if you collapse the box before sending it for recycling.

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