Sunday, February 25, 2024

Holiday recycling: Here’s your naughty and nice list

Oh Christmas Tree
James City County is offering free Christmas tree drop-off collection. (WYDaily/File photo)

When it comes to holiday recycling in James City County, some items are “naughty” and some are “nice.”

Don’t get in trouble with the folks who collect your trash and recycling. Check this list from the Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority, one of the recycling companies serving most of the Virginia and Middle peninsulas.


  • Plain wrapping paper
  • Gift boxes
  • Tissue paper
  • Paper gift bags
  • Holiday cards
  • Envelopes
  • Shoe boxes
  • Cardboard and paper
  • Plastic bottles and jugs
  • Plastic food containers
  • Rigid plastics
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Aluminum cans
  • Metal cans


  • Bubble wrap
  • Ribbons, tape and bows
  • Tree ornaments and decorations
  • Sticky gift labels
  • Laminated or coated gift bags
  • Foam peanuts and styrofoam packaging
  • Cellophane or plastic bags
  • Christmas lights
  • Christmas trees

While the checklist is provided by the VPPSA, the recycling checklist can be used for most curbside recycling companies.

“Aluminum is the easiest thing to recycle,” said Dawn Oleksy, James City County’s environmental coordinator. “It’s the most cost-effective raw material. Any pie tin, lasagna pans — just clean it out from greasy food and recycle it.”

While many items can be recycled, curbside pickup isn’t always the proper venue for those items, including Christmas lights, Oleksy said.

Christmas lights and other long material can bind up recycling machinery, requiring VPPSA staff to stop the machines, untangle the lights, and resume operations.

Some big box stores will recycle lights, such as Home Depot, but a call should be made first before dropping the lights off.

Oleksy also advises thinking critically about an item’s recyclability before tossing it in the recycle bin.

“Keep the tinsel out of the recycling,” Oleksy said. “Maybe if it looks shiny like aluminum, people think it’s something to recycle, but it’s not.”

The holidays may alter curbside pickup times and days, so residents should be sure to check with their respective localities to ensure they’re putting their recycling out on the curb on the right day.

And, for those who miss their recycling day, there are other options.

James City County residents can recycle some items for free at the county’s three transfer stations. Go to the county website to see which station is the closest to you.

Williamsburg residents may use the James City County Jolly Pond Convenience Center on a pre-purchased coupon basis.

The York County Drop-off Center is at 145 Goodwin Neck Road and is open to any resident wishing to recycle.

Those with questions about what items qualify for recycling should contact the VPPSA’s customer service line at 757-259-9850.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

Related Articles