Card stock

Recycling holiday cards

Not only is buying a new card for each holiday wasteful, but it can also get expensive. Cards at stores like Barnes & Noble can cost up to $6 each.

Not only is buying a new card for each holiday wasteful, but it can also get expensive. Cards at stores like Barnes & Noble can cost up to $6 each.


For more information about how to recycle specific materials and items, visit

Despite the happiness and excitement that surrounds the holiday season, there’s a dark side—it’s the most wasteful and environmentally destructive time of year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and an additional 1 million tons of materials like wrapping paper and ribbons are added to landfills. And recycling organization Earth911 estimates that Americans purchase over 7 billion greeting cards each year, many of which are improperly disposed.

After the holidays are over, it’s tempting to toss a big pile of holiday cards into the recycling bin and call it a day, but incorrect recycling habits prevent resources from being reused—not to mention that those funny cards featuring Justin Bieber singing or dogs spewing glitter contain electronics or objects that can classify cards as hazardous materials.

Northern Nevada recycling coordinator Jasmine Vittori from the state of Nevada’s Bureau of Waste Management says that even with plenty of online options for sending and receiving e-cards, many people still chose a traditional paper option, which leaves people with stacks of cards and photos without a place or purpose. And even with technology available to send greetings through the web or through mobile devices, print cards still reign.

“Despite the abundance of e-card websites, email and social media, greeting cards abound, especially during the holiday season,” she said.

Many cards can be recycled, but Vittori notes that it’s important to be aware of the ink and additional materials used on the card, because it will render the cards contaminated.

“Like wrapping paper, if the greeting cards have any shiny, metallic components to them they can’t be recycled without those parts being removed,” she said. “This includes the inks, even for photo greeting cards. Many mixed-paper recyclers can handle photographic paper or printed paper, but this type of card or paper should only be recycled with mixed-paper.”

Vittori says there are options available for recycling and reusing cards that require a bit of creativity and planning.

“Consider sending out e-cards instead of physical greeting cards,” she recommends. Not only do e-cards cut out the need for paper, stamps, and the gas required to mail them around the globe, but they are often free and can be sent instantly. If the cheesy e-cards from the early 2000s are what come to mind, greeting card smartphone apps have more sophisticated designs, or you can design your own and share it through social networking.

Scrapbook them: cut out the messages or photographs you want to keep, and use the scraps to decorate the rest of the pages. Use parts of cards with glitter or metallic as pendants or earrings.

If printed cards are a tradition that can’t be broken, try recycled paper cards with soy-based, rather than oil-based, ink. “While not completely biodegradable, they offer a greener alternative to more traditional oil-based inks,” Vittori said.

Cards should be recycled through mixed-paper, which is not accepted by curbside recycling in Reno, but can be dropped off at transfer stations in Reno, Sparks and Carson City, as long as the metallic and electronic components are removed. Electronic waste disposal services are also available in Northern Nevada.