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TIPS: What you can recycle during the holidays

During the holiday period from Thanksgiving to the new year, Americans throw away about 25% more trash than any other time.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Don't be on Santa's naughty list, this year! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans recycle approximately 67 million tons of material. 

During the holiday period from Thanksgiving to the new year, Americans throw away about 25% more trash than any other time.

Because of that, recycling facilities are extra busy during this time of year. Dozens of employees spend hours sorting through items that just aren't recyclable. 

"Our biggest issue with our customer base is that they really want to be good recyclers but sometimes they don't understand how to be good recyclers," said Jeff Smithberger, director of solid waste for Mecklenburg County. 

To be a good recycler this holiday season, here are some items not to toss in the recycling bin: 

  • Bubble wrap
  • Twine
  • Tinsel
  • Styrofoam
  • Ribbons
  • Christmas lights
  • Tissue paper

So what can you recycle?

Plain wrapping paper, without foil or velvet, and cardboard are all safe to recycle. Experts say to make sure your break down cardboard boxes. 

Brandi Williams with Charlotte's Solid Waste Services also offers another way to be eco-friendly. 

"It's better to re-use," Williams said. "You give that product a second life."

She suggests re-using bows, wrapping paper, or reusable bags.

Improving the city's recycling habits is an all year task.

For the past few months, Charlotte Solid Waste has been targeting 3,000 homes with highly contained bins, in other words, people who are recycling things that should be thrown out. 

RELATED: Nearly one-third of homes in these Charlotte neighborhoods don't recycle

Williams says people are starting to understand what is recyclable, calling it a success. 

"We've seen about a 12% reduction in contamination in the areas where we've been doing the cart tagging," Williams said. "We're hoping that we will be able to expand it because we notice an immediate change in behavior."

RELATED: The city of Charlotte may be looking through your recycle bin

The pilot program will run through May 1, 2020.

A red tag will be placed on recycling cans found to be contaminated with garbage. A green tag indicates healthy recycling.

Now, if you're still not sure what to recycle you can go to the city's website and find The Waste Wizard. It allows you to type in the item you're curious about and it will tell you how to dispose of it. 

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