Is it compost, waste or recyclable?

On a cold, sunny day during the week before Christmas, staff are hard at work at the GreenIsle recycling plant in Charlottetown. They’re bracing for the busiest week of the year.

“A garbage man loves Christmas, but we get the blues on Boxing Day. You really can’t explain how much comes in; you have to see it to believe it.”
 - Darcy Gallant 

Gallant is the facility supervisor of GreenIsle Environmental Inc. In Prince Edward Island, all trash must be sorted into one of three categories: marketable recyclable material, compost, and waste. GreenIsle operates recycling facilities in Charlottetown and Summerside.

After the frenzy of the Christmas morning has subsided and you’re pouring another coffee and starting to tackle Mount Paper, it’s a good idea to be prepared. Have on hand a large paper bag for compost, a clear bag for waste, a blue one for recyclables, and a bag or bin for gift bags, boxes and ribbons you want to reuse.

Tips for sorting waste

Christmas cards, wrapping paper, boxes, etc.

  • Wrapping paper usually goes in compost (don’t worry about a little bit of tape) but foil and cellophane goes in waste.
  • Box board (gift boxes, etc.) goes in compost, not recyclable.
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes are recyclable.
  • Styrofoam, bows, string and ribbons are waste.
  • Greeting cards are usually compost, but go in waste if they contain plastic or foil.
  • Envelopes are usually paper (recyclable), unless foil lined. If so, they are waste.
Do not burn wrapping paper in a wood stove or fireplace. Read more fire safety tips


  • Those cute musical greeting cards actually have batteries, so remove the batteries to properly dispose of them. (Look for a battery recycling bin at grocery stores or a Waste Watch Drop-Off Center).  
  • Any old or not working electronics and used batteries can be dropped off a Waste Watch Drop-Off Center for free disposal.
  • Did you know you should tape over the ends of lithium, lithium-Ion and small sealed lead acid batteries or individually bag each of these batteries?  This helps prevent a potential fire hazard.

Christmas Light Strings

  • Christmas light strings that no longer work go into the blue bag #2 along with plastics, glass and metals.  Same goes for extension cords that no longer work.

Christmas Tree and Other Greenery

  • Place your tree (the one that you’ve been diligently watering) curbside by Monday, January 11. 
  • Before you drag your tree to the curb, remove all ornaments and especially any wire that may have been used. Don’t bag it (unless it’s a compostable bag). If it’s taller than eight feet, you will need to cut it up into smaller chunks.

Throughout the month of January, Christmas trees may be dropped off to any Waste Watch Drop-Off Center at no charge. Waste Watch Drop-Off Centers are located in Brockton, New London, Dingwell Mills, Wellington Centre, Charlottetown and Murray River.

And, this year, IWMC is teaming up with local goat and other livestock farms who graciously welcome trees for bedding and festive treats for their farm animals.  A list of Island farms accepting trees can be found at: IWMC. Who knew that ‘used’ goat trees can be a nutritious snack for a goat?

Odds and ends

  • The wooden crates that those tasty little clementine oranges come in - put in the waste bin, not compost.
  • Tin foil plates from meat pies, tarts and pies are recyclable.

Christmas Collection Schedule - updated for 2020

  • Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year, so the alternate pick up date is Saturday, December 26, 2020. Please ensure material is curbside by 7 a.m.
  • New Year's Day will also be impacted. No collection on Friday, January 1, 2021 but Saturday, January 2 is the alternate pick up date.  Ensure material is curbside by 7 a.m.
  • Christmas tree collection begins Monday, January 11, 2021
  • Please ensure your tree is curbside by 7:00 am, free of ornaments, wire and tinsel.
  • Trees longer than 8 ft., or heavier than 50 lbs must be cut in half.
  • Wreaths, even those made from living branches, are waste unless they are dismantled. If dismantled the greenery can go in compost and the metal ring in blue bag #2 for recycling (or better yet, save it to use another year).
When in doubt, check out the online sorting guide by Island Waste Management, or call customer service toll-free at 1-888-280-8111. Or, sign up for IWMC’s new sorting and collection app for fast & easy reminders, storm alerts, and sorting information.

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