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JEFFERSON CITY, MO, DEC. 27, 2021 - The end of another holiday season means it will soon be time to start taking down holiday decorations. As Missourians start this often bittersweet task, they often wonder how to properly dispose of Christmas trees, strands of old lights, gift packaging and other items, including broken or unwanted electronics. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has some helpful suggestions for disposing of these items this holiday season.

Because about 80% of what is throw away during the holidays can be recycled, the department encourages everyone to take time to sort out the many items that can be diverted from landfills. These include holiday lights, bubble wrapping, cardboard, wrapping paper, food containers and other holiday-related items. 

Here are some tips to help with disposing of these items:

  • Items thrown in the recycling bin should be clean and dry. Many half-filled water or beverage bottles before throwning into bins at holiday gatherings. Take a moment to empty the bottles and throw them in the recycling bin.
  • Avoid bagging recyclables. Cans, plastics and cardboard boxes can be thrown in the recycle bins as is. There is no need to place these recyclables in plastic bags before disposal in recycle bins.
  • Batteries have become a waste of concern in solid waste disposal facilities. As you throw away electronic toys or other battery-operated items, take a minute to remove the batteries, tape both battery terminals to prevent fires and deliver them to neighborhood stores participating in battery take-back programs.
  • See the department's online Registered Electronics Recycling Businesses List at

Strings of lights can also be recycled. When holiday lights are thrown into the waste bin, the wires can damage equipment at waste processing facilities. The bulbs may contain metals that could leach into water systems and be a potential source of harm for residents. Recycle decorative lights by taking them to electronic recyclers and keep working lights for the next holiday season. The department also promotes holiday light recycling in certain areas of the state, such as the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City. 

 Natural Christmas trees, wreaths and other decorative greenery make beautiful holiday decorations, but deciding what to do with them after the holidays can be challenging. Here are some tips:

 Check with local tree farms and other retailers for take-back options.

  • Remove all of the decorations and trimmings; most are reusable and could contaminate the environment or harm wildlife.
  • Avoid burning trees and other greenery in wood stoves or fireplaces; the resins could cause a flue fire.
  • Compost or dispose of natural decorations in an environmentally safe manner.

The holiday season traditionally means lots of delicious food, but it can also mean food waste. In fact, about 97% of food waste ends up in the landfill. Uneaten food in landfills generates greenhouse gases such as methane that could impact the environment. Help protect the environment and save money at the same time by following some of the following suggestions:

  • Have extra zip-lock bags or reusable containers available for your guests to take leftovers home for next-day meals or snacks.
  • Compost uneaten food. You can compost uneaten food and turn your trash into lawn and garden treasure.
  • Prevent food waste money by transforming your leftover holiday food items into fresh meals for your household.
  • Search online for recipes for creative dishes using holiday leftovers. Learn more at gov/foodwaste/faqs.
  • Guidance on how to safely handle holiday leftovers and other food safety information is available at

For more information on recycling, contact the department’s Waste Management Program at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-5401, or visit

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